Paterno: ‘I didn’t know exactly how to handle it’

66 Comments

In the weeks since the still-stunning dismissal was made official, supporters and detractors alike have been clamoring for deposed head coach Joe Paterno to give his side of the story, to begin to explain why he took the tack he did when he was first made aware of one of his trusted former assistants allegedly sodomizing a boy in football building shower.

For the first time since being fired Nov. 9, the legendary head coach has done just that.  Somewhat.  Sorta.

In an exclusive sit-down interview with the Washington Post‘s Sally Jenkins, Paterno, with his attorney in the room, addressed a wide range of issues and questions, from the aftermath of his ouster to his treatment for lung cancer to, yes, Jerry Sandusky.

The central question, though, the one that nearly everyone has on their mind, is a simple one: why?  Why did Paterno, after turning over information he had received from a grad assistant —  Mike McQueary, the Nittany Lions quarterbacks coach who has been a central figure in the case against Sandusky — that Sandusky was naked in a shower with a 10-year-old boy in 2002, do the bare minimum as legally required by law?  Why did Paterno, the most powerful man at Penn State University regardless of title, not follow-up after handing the information over to his athletic director and president?

Nine years later, it appears Paterno is still struggling to answer those questions in his own head.

“I didn’t know exactly how to handle it and I was afraid to do something that might jeopardize what the university procedure was,” he said. “So I backed away and turned it over to some other people, people I thought would have a little more expertise than I did. It didn’t work out that way.”

Paterno went on to at least attempt to further explain to Jenkins why he didn’t pursue the matter further after handing over McQueary and his information to athletic director Tim Curley and another high-ranking university official.

Paterno’s portrait of himself is of an old-world man profoundly confused by what McQueary told him, and who was hesitant to make follow-up calls because he did not want to be seen as trying to exert any influence for or against Sandusky. “I didn’t know which way to go,” he said. “And rather than get in there and make a mistake . . .”

He reiterated that McQueary was unclear with him about the nature of what he saw — and added that even if McQueary had been more graphic, he’s not sure he would have comprehended it.

“You know, he didn’t want to get specific,” Paterno said. “And to be frank with you I don’t know that it would have done any good, because I never heard of, of, rape and a man. So I just did what I thought was best. I talked to people that I thought would be, if there was a problem, that would be following up on it.”

Paterno also hit on other topics…

  • On his firing: “Whether it’s fair I don’t know, but they do it. You would think I ran the show here.”  That statement comes courtesy of a man who, legend has it, chased Curley and then-president Graham Spanier out of his house several years ago when the two came to fire him.  he was not fired.
  • On how Sandusky was allowed to engage in his alleged deviant acts with young boys while going undetected: “I wish I knew. I don’t know the answer to that. It’s hard.”  The premise of the question is absurd, of course, as several high-ranking members of the university were made aware of allegations involving Sandusky dating as far back as 1998.
  • Paterno and his wife were in their nightclothes getting ready for bed on the night of Nov. 9 when there was a knock on the door.  On the other side of the door was a university employee bearing a piece of paper and a name on it.  Paterno dialed the number and the voice on the other end, vice trustees chairman John Surma, telling him “[i]n the best interests of the university, you are terminated.”  Paterno’s irate wife Sue called the number back. “After 61 years he deserved better. He deserved better.”
  • On why he waited until this interview, which was conducted Thursday and Friday, to speak out publicly: “I wanted everybody to settle down.”
  • Paterno said he had “no inkling” that Sandusky might be a pedophile, and described their relationship as “professional, not social” due to the fact that his former assistant “was a lot younger than me.”
  • Paterno said he told Sandusky that he couldn’t spend the time with his children’s charity — The Second Mile, which he allegedly used as a “recruiting ground” for victims — if he wanted to also become a head coach.  Paterno maintained that Sandusky retired in 1998 after being told he would not become Paterno’s successor at Penn State.  Sandusky was urged by Paterno to take the 30-year retirement package being offered by the school.
  • Paterno claims he was unaware of an incident in 1998 in which Sandusky allegedly molested a boy in a shower.  Curley as well as police were aware of the incident, and it was investigated before it was decided charges would not be pursued.  “You know it wasn’t like it was something everybody in the building knew about,” Paterno said of the 1998 incident. “Nobody knew about it.”
  • Paterno would not pass judgment on Sandusky’s guilt or innocence. “I think we got to wait and see what happens. The courts are taking care of it, the legal system is taking care of it.” If Sandusky is found guilty?  “I’m sick about it.”

Other than being his first post-firing interview, Jenkins’ exceptionally written piece did not, as somewhat expected, plow much new ground.  Perhaps the most fascinating — and sad on multiple levels — aspect of the interview was the conversation turning to the victims of Sandusky’s alleged sexual abuse and Paterno and his wife personalizing it into what their reactions would’ve been if it had involved a member of their own family.

The Paternos say they think about the real potential victims every time they look at their own children. “I got three boys and two girls,” Paterno said. “It’s sickening.” His knee-jerk response is to go back to Flatbush. “Violence is not the way to handle it,” he said. “But for me, I’d get a bunch of guys and say let’s go punch somebody in the nose.” Sue Paterno is more blunt. “If someone touched my child, there wouldn’t be a trial, I would have killed them,” she said. “That would be my attitude, because you have destroyed someone for life.”

In other words, if Paterno had received the same information he did in 2002, but “10-year-old boy” was replaced with “great-grandson”, jeopardizing university procedures would have been the last thing on the former coach’s mind and someone would have paid for whatever happened in that on-campus shower.  Instead, the bare minimum was done for somebody’s else’s child.

It has been stated multiple times in the past couple of months that Paterno has been wanting to get his side of the story out, that he wanted to address the situation in his own words.  To some degree, he did just that, although if someone were a supporter or a detractor coming in, that’s likely where they still stand upon finishing the interview.

For me, it merely served as yet another reminder of how sad and disturbing and disgusting this whole sordid situation remains.  And how it could’ve been stopped in 2002, sparing several innocent victims from the actions of an alleged pedophile.

This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!

 

No. 4 dual-threat JUCO QB in 2019 to transfer from Middle Tennessee State

Middle Tennessee State football
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Middle Tennessee State was the landing spot for a Power Five football transfer earlier this month.  Now, the Conference USA school is on the wrong end of the portal.

According to 247Sports.com, Randall Johnson has entered his name into the NCAA transfer database.  An MTSU official has subsequently confirmed that the quarterback is indeed listed in the portal.

Now, for what’s seemingly becoming a daily disclaimer when it comes to transfers.

As we’ve stated myriad times in the past, a player can remove his name from the portal and remain at the same school. At this point, though, other programs are permitted to contact a player without receiving permission from his current football program.

NCAA bylaws also permit schools to pull a portal entrant’s scholarship at the end of the semester in which he entered it.

Johnson began his collegiate career at Reedley College in 2018.  As a true freshman, he was named as the Golden Coast Conference Offensive Player of the Year.  That year, the California native threw for 2,832 yards and 28 touchdowns.  He also ran for another 797 yards and 14 scores.

In the 2019 recruiting cycle, Johnson was a three-star prospect.  On the 247Sports.com composite, Johnson was rated as the No. 4 dual-threat junior-college quarterback.

In his only season with the Blue Raiders, Johnson played in one game.  In that lone appearance, Johnson ran for three yards on a pair of carries. He didn’t attempt a pass.

May 18, Kenneth Major committed to MTSU.  The cornerback was a starter at Purdue.  He’ll be eligible to play for the Blue Raiders in 2020.

Middle Tennessee State is coming off a 4-8 2019 football campaign.  That was the program’s worst record since going 2-10 in 2011.  MTSU also saw its school-record streak of bowl appearances end at four in a row.

Tulsa WR Malik Jackson plunges into the transfer portal

Tulsa football
Getty Images
Leave a comment

You can officially put Tulsa on the football transfer portal tote board for the first time in a while.  And not in a good way.

According to 247Sports.com, Malik Jackson has made his way into the NCAA transfer database.  That would be the wide receiver’s first step in ultimately leaving the Tulsa football team.

Thus far, there been no word from either the program or the player on Jackson’s status moving forward.

Now, for what’s seemingly becoming a daily disclaimer when it comes to transfers.

As we’ve stated myriad times in the past, a player can remove his name from the portal and remain at the same school. At this point, though, other programs are permitted to contact a player without receiving permission from his current football program.

NCAA bylaws also permit schools to pull a portal entrant’s scholarship at the end of the semester in which he entered it.

Jackson was a two-star member of the Tulsa football Class of 2017.  The Taylor, Texas, native didn’t see the field at all during his time with the Golden Hurricane.

It’s likely Jackson will be leaving the AAC school as a graduate transfer.  That would allow him to play immediately in 2020.  He would also have another season of eligibility to use in 2021 as well.

Earlier this offseason, Tulsa had welcomed a trio of Power Five transfer into the football program.

Two are former Texas A&M football players — linebacker Brian Johnson and running back Deneric Prince — while one is from Oklahoma State — tight end Grayson Boomer.

All three of those transfers will have to sit out the 2020 season to satisfy NCAA bylaws. Johnson and Prince will have two years of eligibility remaining, Boomer three.

Western Kentucky starting TE Kyle Fourtenbary transfers to FCS Northern Iowa

Western Kentucky football
Getty Images
Leave a comment

One erstwhile Western Kentucky football player has found himself a new college football home. Unofficially, of course.

Late last month, Kyle Fourtenbary opted to enter into the NCAA transfer database.  That was his first official step in leaving the Western Kentucky football team.  Three weeks later, the tight end took the next by announcing on Twitter he is headed to Northern Iowa.

The Panthers play at the FCS level.  That will allow Fourtenbary to play immediately in 2020.  He is also a WKU graduate, so that would’ve granted him immediate eligibility as well.

The upcoming season will be Fourtenbary’s final one.  At least, at the collegiate level it will.

“Excited to announce that I will be transferring to the University of Northern Iowa to finish up my last year of college football!” Fourtenbary tweeted. “Looking forward to a great season.”

A two-star 2016 signee, Fourtenbary redshirted as a true freshman.  The following year, he caught eight passes for 96 yards.  Those numbers were good for third among Hilltoppers tight ends.

The 2018 campaign turned out to be a breakout season for Fourtenbary.  That year, the 6-4, 245-pound Alabama native caught 36 passes for 302 yards and two touchdowns.  He started 11 of the 12 games in which he played.

Entering the 2019 season, Fourtenbary was named as part of the Mackey Award preseason watch list.  Last year, though, he totaled just 108 yards and a touchdown on nine receptions in the first season under new head coach Tyson Helton.

Mississippi State’s Jarrian Jones switches Egg Bowl sides, announces transfer to Ole Miss

Egg Bowl rivalry
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jarrian Jones spent the first portion of the Egg Bowl rivalry on the Mississippi State side.  Now, he’s headed to the other.

Earlier this week, Jarrian Jones became the fifth Mississippi State football player to enter the NCAA transfer database in seven weeks.  This weekend, he became the latest MSU player to find new home as the defensive back has flipped to the Ole Miss side of the Egg Bowl rivalry.

Jones was a four-star member of the Mississippi State football Class of 2019.  The Mississippi native was the No. 18 safety in the country on the 247Sports.com composite.  He was also the No. 13 prospect regardless of position in his home state.  Only three signees in the class that year for MSU were rated higher than Jones.

As a true freshman, Jones started one of the dozen games in which he played.  In those appearances, he was credited with 12 tackles, two passes defensed and one fumble recovery.

After sitting out the 2020 season, the defensive back will have three years of eligibility to use starting in 2021.

The four other Mississippi State football players who have entered the portal in nearly seven weeks?