What is now known about the Penn State Football program coach scandal is recorded in the following time-line (from the New York Daily News):
I have mixed (unresolved?) feelings about the violence associated with severe contact sports like football. As an adolescent, I didn't possess the physical strength and stamina to pursue heavy contact sports, and by the time I did as an adult, I was well beyond the point at which I might have engaged in such activities. You have to be driven, as well as physically capable, to play football or even basketball competitively at the high school or college level, and I was never motivated sufficiently in that direction.
Nevertheless, like most Americans, I have some interest in professional sports, and vicariously participate (as a fan) in the excitement and interest which the competition generates. Am I a little less than proud of this interest? Do I think I could spend my time more wisely? Do I have some personal stake in the perpetuation of the big money generated, and serious risk of injury, which are integral parts of professional football? Without a doubt. Much of what people do isn't rational, or practical. Professional sports is an entertainment. People crave it. Ultimately, it doesn't do society much good--despite the claims that are made for its charitableness, or the building of character, or as a demonstration project for the teaching of courage, cooperation or other supposed personal values.
Over the 20th Century, college sports grew from a modest pastime into a very big business. The division between (amateur) college and professional sports has become very vague indeed. The system of "athlete scholars" is mostly an open joke in our society. No one believes that college athletics is designed to turn out "well-rounded" individuals who improve their bodies along with their minds. That's all become a myth, if it ever had any validity to begin with. As fas as the career potential of college athletics goes, precious few of those who participate realize any permanent return on their investment. For the major market teams, college players are participating, unpaid, in a financial investment scheme designed to exploit them for the benefit of the institutions they nominally "attend."
The value of such programs to the financial stability of the institutions which run them, especially in a time of scarcening public resources for state supported schools, is obvious. Penn State receives tens of millions of dollars each year from its football team revenues--ticket sales, promotions, and media contracts. Would a wholesale repudiation of such support bring about some useful "cleansing" of the conscience(s) of the colleges which participate in this system? Having allowed this system of support to grow into the huge money machine it now is, should it be dismantled because of a minor morals scandal at a single institution?
What we have in the Sandusky case, is a retired coach who was allowed to use university property to lure young boys into a safe neutral location where he could interact with them in ways that might not be seen or interpreted as suspicious or questionable. That he was seen, out in the open, by employees of the facilities where these incidents took place, suggests that he may have felt he had "cover" or that what he was doing might conceivably pass as edgy, but not clearly illegal.
Pedophiles, according to the psychological history of diagnosis, tend to want to see themselves merely as expressing or experiencing "affection" as a way of defending their abnormal tendencies. Sandusky appears to have been a chronic, classic pedophile, with a long history of interactions. At some point, perhaps as early as the mid-1990's, Sandusky's problem had begun to be known. My speculation is that people who worked with him, including his boss Joe Paterno, certainly were aware of his tendencies. They knew he craved young boys, and a lot of people have to have known that his charity, Second Mile, was at least partly a cover for his interest, and a conduit to access to vulnerable boys. So this problem didn't just begin in 2002.
This is where the issue becomes cloudier. If Paterno knew that Sandusky was a pedophile, he might have been content to let Sandusky retire, and he may have hoped that Sandusky's activity would no longer be "associated" with the football program, or the University itself. Imagine what may have been going through Paterno's mind: Indeed, it's not been publicly speculated upon, but it's possible that Paterno even discussed the matter with Sandusky, and warned him, or threatened him with exposure, if he didn't stop using university athletic facilities to do it. Paterno had decades of his life invested in the high profile, successful football program. He has to have known that if and when Sandusky's activities were outed, he (Paterno), the team, and the university all would come under severe fire. Paterno was a football coach, not a lawyer. He may have thought he had no direct responsibility, lawful or otherwise, to make something like that public. We don't know what his personal take on homosexuality was, or how he might have viewed what Sandusky was doing. He may have thought it troublesome, but not rising to the level that would justify jeopardizing the school athletics program(s), the team, and his own career and reputation, by being a whistle-blower.
Once Sandusky retired from active coaching, his "association" with Penn State was a sort of courtesy only. Paterno, and others in a position of authority, may have thought that his ties to the university, and the team facility, were loose enough not to implicate them. And again, we don't know what efforts may have been made to influence Sandusky or to try to separate him from the place. It would be logical to see the university wanting to distance itself from him, and yet they apparently made no effort to do that, at least that has been reported. It's easy to condemn all the participants, in hindsight, for not acting in a less selfish and self-serving way. They may indeed have weighed the consequences of disclosure against the attractions of silence, and decided, as they apparently did, that the downside of going public was far worse.
In a pragmatic sense, what has ensued, and will continue to occur, will be a media circus, and a legal nightmare, in which the lives of perhaps as many as two dozen boys (now men, of course), will be dragged into the spotlight. Paterno (who is now a decrepit old man in his 80's), and others involved, have lost or will lose their livelihoods. Despite the fact that none of the participants in the program (other than Sandusky) bears any individual guilt (except perhaps as accessories), all will be tainted. And will any of this scandalizing improve the lots of the boys who were exploited, i.e., "raped" by Sandusky? In what sense is the scandal, and the public hand-wringing and immolation, going to heal or make right anything that occurred? Could Sandusky have been stopped, and prosecuted, in a way that didn't implicate the Penn State program?
Were Sandusky's crimes severe enough to warrant the shame and reactions which have turned Penn State upsidedown? I don't have an answer. I'm not much interested in defending Paterno, or the other people who turned the other way. In our media-drenched world, trying to cover something up, before the media can get a hold of it, usually ends up being the worse crime. How many scandals were never made public? How many Sanduskys are there in the world, who will never be found out, or exposed?
I experienced two instances of mild sexual exploitation as a child, one involving a grade-school teacher (a woman), and another by a customer on my paper route. I didn't suffer any permanent harm, at least that I'm aware of. The teacher had a real problem, and I have no doubt she continued to focus on little boys after I left. We tend to see same sex exploitation, particularly among men, as being much worse, ethically, than in cases of mixed sexual activity. In my previous post, The Lolita-Complex in the Work of Jock Sturges, I observed that sexual activity involving early pubescent girls was certainly common in "pre-historical" societies, and continues to take place among "primitive" societies around the world, to this day. Current morés reject these kinds of activities, and "child" ideation, as being abnormal, as indeed they are, in the context of the prevailing assumptions of our culture. The notion of concentrating one's sexual energy on children is clearly not only unproductive, but potentially destructive and devastating to the victims and their families. Sandusky knew what he was doing was bizarre and awful, and there's no doubt that it was. Non- or semi-consensual sex, in the modern world, is a kind of sin.
Could Paterno, and the others who did nothing with their knowledge, have done anything useful which could have saved the victims, while not damaging their own reputations? If Paterno, for instance, had gone directly to the authorities in 2002, would Penn State have avoided the scandal that has taken place? My guess is that he rejected that path, precisely because he saw no good would come of it. Faced with the myriad complications which we now see, it's easy to understand how he might have hoped he could end his career honorably (at least in public), keeping his private (guilty) knowledge to himself. Alas, no matter what we do to hide, or shove things like this under the rug, they have a tendency to come up and bite us. Sexual deviance is a volatile problem. Sandusky put his friends and associates into an untenable situation, in which their logical self-interest, and perhaps even their regard for him, as misguided as that was, only made matters worse.