In a little under 12 hours from now, the Freeh report investigating Penn State’s actions in the Jerry Sandusky scandal will come to light.
Leaked emails to multiple media outlets over the past several weeks suggest the contents of the report will be nothing short of devastating to the upstanding reputation PSU has spent decades building. Most notably, the emails hint that several people, possibly including former coach Joe Paterno, willingly covered up incidents of child-sex abuse by Sandusky. But, outside of those select messages sent among university admins, we know almost nothing about the details of the report.
The lack of information, the absence of true details, has been perhaps the most frustrating portion of the Sandusky scandal from its beginning because it’s left us with nothing but questions. How could a man convicted of 45 counts of child sex abuse have been allowed to prey on young boys using his charity, The Second Mile, and his university as avenues for as long as he did?
Rightfully so, you want answers. I want answers.
Will we get all the answers we want? Certainly not. I would even count on more questions being raised.
But, for now, here’s what I’m looking for in the Freeh report:
1. Exactly what did Paterno do when informed by Mike McQueary of the Sandusky allegation in 2001?
This should be obvious. Paterno’s actions in the Sandusky scandal have been the lead talking points since the story broke open last November. I’m a firm believer that Paterno should not — nor will not — be the only person blamed in this tragedy. There are others, perhaps several depending on the information provided in the results of the investigation, who deserve equal if not greater scrutiny. But I also believe Paterno was not just a head coach and to suggest that the face of an institution of higher education was somehow able to do no more than pass a message up the proverbial chain of command is insulting.
Which leads me to question 1b: did Paterno fail to do the right thing, or purposefully look the other way? Emails obtained by CNN claim that former Penn State VP Gary Schultz had planned to contact the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare in 2001, but that changed following a conversation, presumably with Paterno.
2. Who else knew of the allegations and remained silent or otherwise aided in a possible cover-up?
To date, there are five members of Penn State who have been identified as major players in this story: McQueary, Paterno, Schultz, athletic director Tim Curley and former president Graham Spanier. Who else inside Penn State, if anyone, knew about allegations against Sandusky, or perhaps noticed odd behavior from Sandusky themselves? Emails obtained by CNN show former VP of student affairs Vicky Triponey had heated arguments with Curley and Spanier over the supposed culture of the athletic department, which apparently preferred to handle matters internally. Yes, Triponey had an ax to grind, but a culture is not limited to the actions of one or two people.
3. Did someone, anyone, at Penn State know about Sandusky’s red flags before 2001?
Penn State officials have given mixed responses on this. Curley said previously he had some recollection of a 1998 investigation of Sandusky, while Schultz claimed to have never heard of it. The misjudgment alone — if that is indeed the case — is despicable considering the subject matter, the person in question and the rank of those who should absolutely be on the same page. I would venture to guess, though, that it wasn’t a miscommunication. Sandusky was an active, high-profile member of his community. Perhaps it is for that reason that if someone did know about his history of being a “likely pedophile” (in the opinion of one child psychologist) that it was never addressed.
4. What’s up with the school’s Board of Trustees?
At least one trustee suspects a cover-up. Several of you have voiced suspicion that the board is in on it too. The curiosity surrounding the board and what they may or may not have known lends itself, at least indirectly, to the two previous questions above. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported in January that the board had been briefed on a Sandusky investigation last year — possibly as early as last May. Assuming the timeline is correct, that would create a roughly six-month gap between the point where the board was made aware of the investigation and its decision to fire Paterno and Spanier last November.
And, don’t forget, the board has a meeting on Friday.
5. Will there be evidence that piques the interest of the NCAA?
To be clear, and I’m not alone in this line of thought, I don’t think the NCAA has the jurisdiction to get involved with Penn State, let alone administer something as severe as the death penalty… as of right now. Today, July 11, 2012, the Sandusky scandal and any possible cover-up of his actions is a violation of the law, not of athletic rules. Involving itself with Penn State solely over criminal acts because it breaches some ethical code or bass ackwards “lack of institutional control” rhetoric is shattering the boundaries of the NCAA’s capabilities.
Now, if the Freeh report finds Penn State athletic officials covered up or failed to report an impermissible benefit or practice time overage on a separate occasion, then by all means, the Committee on Infractions can hammer them however it sees fit. But the NCAA cannot, should not, take matters of the law into its own hands.