… Penn State has begun, this morning, to shake itself awake. It’s gotten rid of one and put the other on leave.

(Note: This is a very big, very fast-moving story. I’ve added a number of updates to this post.)

Penn State is football city, so each step of this gruesome process – getting rid of Paterno, accepting the appropriate share of institutional blame, settling the lawsuits sure to come, acknowledging the degree of cover-up, suspending the football program – will be infinitely slow and self-wounding.

I’ve often, on this blog, compared the guys on the inside of big-time university football programs to Blanche Dubois. Self-delusion, denial, and (as with Blanche) outright lies are what it’s about. Some programs – Kentucky comes to mind – have, like Dubois at the denouement, gone totally ’round the bend. Most are beginning-of-the-play Blanche: Brightly smiling and talking one hell of a good game; but, under that, just barely – season to season – keeping it together. Penn State is a strikingly self-deluded outfit and will take a long hard fall.

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“[I]t would be foolish to discount the possibility that, by the time the legal drama fully plays out, Paterno, Curley, Schultz and even Penn State president Graham Spanier all will be gone.”

At least Spanier can go out on a private plane.

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“The board of trustees needs to get hold of it so that they can get to the bottom of it.”

You can always count on a politician to find just the right words.

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The campus landmark – Penn State Creamery – … serves flavors of ice cream named after university celebrities. There is … something called “The Sandusky Blitz.” It might be wise for the owners to consider dropping that particular flavor from the menu.

Done.

“Time to go load up on the Sandusky Blitz at the Creamery. It will be replaced soon with the Curley Coverup and the Spanier Surprise!”

And the Paterno Panic.

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Two reasons Paterno and Spanier will melt as fast Sandusky Blitz appear here.

Tyler Barnard, a junior from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, said in Mamma Mia [restaurant] that he objected to the university paying for legal counsel for Athletic Director Timothy Curley and Gary Schultz, senior vice president for finance and business.

They have been charged with failing to report the alleged crimes, and with perjury.

“I want to start a protest movement saying I don’t want my tuition to pay for their screwups,” Barnard said.

Alyssia Motah, 20, a food science major who was among [a group of] protesters at the administration building, said the university needed to be held accountable.

“The reason they have been so silent is in part due to this football culture that we have here,” she said.

Students realize that, one, their university is little more than a tightly controlled football state. It’s degrading (it should be degrading) to perceive that you live in an oligarchy so powerful it can protect a flagrant sex criminal – and name cutesy ice cream flavors after him – for decades.

Throw sugar at the kiddies and they’ll play along.

Students also realize that, two, they’re subsidizing the sickness.

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All of a sudden, a football program where a star gets a new automobile from a booster now and then or a player gets a free tattoo in exchange for memorabilia doesn’t seem that bad. Penn State administrators are accused of failing to act on allegations of sexual assaults on children. Top that, Ohio State. Beat that record, Miami.

And the best question is this: If Penn State athletic coaches and administrators could look the other way when a 10-year-old is sexually assaulted on campus by a prominent former coach, what wouldn’t they do? What could possibly be beyond their capability to accept in order to protect the “good name” of the program?

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Michael Bérubé is Paterno Family professor of literature at Penn State. As incoming head of the MLA, he’ll be using that title a lot.

On Paterno:

[T]he PSU football system didn’t work for a lot of people in this instance. Why? Here’s the answer: Money, power and secrecy. While money has always been down the list of your personal priorities, the other two almost seemed paramount to you. You have had unequaled power in this town, whether you’ll admit it or not. Is there anyone else who can essentially ignore the university president and trustees?

Perhaps the only conclusion I can come up with is you didn’t follow up because you didn’t want to. You were coming off back-to-back losing seasons, and you knew you were loaded for bear in 2002. If something came to light that summer, well, just perhaps PSU football implodes.

… [Do President Spanier] and those genius trustees think students are going to apply in record number to come to Pedophile State…?

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Congrats [to Penn State’s president, Graham Spanier] on being the second major university B10 president to look like a complete and total fool this year. Gordon Gee hoped Jim Tressel wouldn’t fire him. Now, you’re standing firmly behind two executives who allegedly failed to protect children from being molested, thus allowing it to go on for several more years.

Standing firmly behind and paying their legal costs out of student tuition money.

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The darker, more conspiratorial part of me really, really wants to hope that the coaching promotion [for a person who witnessed what turned out to be an anal rape] wasn’t a payoff [for not pursuing the matter after reporting it to the head of athletics], but many questions along this line will be asked.

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9 Responses to “After an ill-advised statement of support from its president for two men accused of perjury and failure to report…”

  1. MattF Says:

    Left-wing blog has some impolite commentary on the subject:

    http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2011/11/living-a-lie

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Thanks, MattF: I’ve been reading the post, and the many comments after it. Fascinating.

  3. Red Stater Says:

    I was a Penn Stater before I became a Red Stater, so this hits home. It’s hard to believe that a big guy like McQueary wouldn’t have intervened immediately and physically in regards to witnessing child rape. As for ‘reporting this to the administration’ this is SOP for higher ed. A crime was committed so law enforcement should be notified pronto. U’s are all about CYA and PR. This isn’t cheating in organic chem, this is a crime.

    We have a case here of a former faculty member threatening his undergrad ex-girlfriend with a gun. The ending is regrettable. Again clearly a crime was committed; the police should be notified without haste. Facts are still being sorted out in this regard. IMO this U should have contacted the police with or without her permission.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/ernesto-bustamante-univer_0_n_1046327.html

  4. Alan Allport Says:

    It’s hard to believe that a big guy like McQueary wouldn’t have intervened immediately and physically in regards to witnessing child rape.

    Perhaps because he was confused and frightened – in other words, he was a human being?

    Look, in our day-dreams we all presume that we’d be heroes in situations like this. But in reality most of us, even ‘big guys,’ fall short. McQueary did what he should have done: he spoke to a man who had the power to forcefully act on the information without fear of personal retaliation. McQueary has nothing to explain or apologize for. Paterno does.

  5. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Alan: I’ve been having just that conversation with a friend of mine – a guy, brave (he once tackled a robber to the ground)… I think there’s no question he would have intervened. I can imagine a lot of guys (and McQueary was a quarterback) who would have intervened.

    And then there’s intervention and intervention. Why not at least scream at Sandusky? Try to scare him off of what he was doing? I suspect that’s what I would have done.

    And then there’s the business – in McQueary’s case – of interacting closely with Sandusky for years after this incident, despite the fact that nothing seems to have been done.

  6. Alan Allport Says:

    Margaret: I can imagine lots of things too – about myself, and about the kind of person I’d like to think I might be in an emergency. I’d like to think that I would be a hero. I probably wouldn’t be. This shouldn’t be about whether McQueary was a hero either. It should be about power, and its use, and its abuse.

  7. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Alan: I agree. And indeed the question is whether – knowing it was (extremely powerful) Sandusky in there, did McQueary do less than he should have?

  8. Alan Allport Says:

    Margaret: Afterwards? Perhaps. When I said that McQueary had “nothing to explain or apologize for” I was thinking specifically of the choices he made immediately after he discovered Sandusky and the boy. Could you have done more to follow up on the story later on, when it became clear that Paterno wasn’t taking it seriously? Yes, probably. But at least it’s arguable that McQueary, a man with relatively little power in the organization, faced a genuine dilemma. No such excuse is open to Paterno.

    My concern is that this preoccupation with McQueary is going to become a distraction – and perhaps a useful one so far as PSU is concerned – from the real villainy of the story, which is that men with far more power chose for self-interested reasons not to exercise it.

  9. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Alan: Couldn’t agree more.

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