We interrupt this typical trip into college hoops for a discussion in collegiate ethics.
What if it's all true?
It can't be.
But what if it is?
(Former) athletic director Tim Curley loves Penn State, protected its athletic ideals, and safeguarded its image with the same creed we who graduated from the university use as our signature.
We Are Penn State.
Yet, if the damning indictment unleashed by Pennsylvania attorney general Linda Kelly is accurate, and its truth will be settled as it should in a court of law, where was Curley when a number of young children needed protecting from an alleged monster, needed safeguarding against the physical, mental and emotional toll perpetrated by an alleged pedophile?
Perhaps he was busy. Protecting Penn State.
Yet, the two harsh paragraphs above have no basis if the crimes Curley is charged with committing end up holding no legal water. They can't, right? I've met the (former) Penn State athletic director. I've sat in his office, shook his hand, complimented him on his tie, spoke to him at length for nearly an hour.
That was in 2003, one year after Joe Paterno informed him of a graduate assistant's (former Nittany Lions quarterback Mike McQueary) alleged horrifying discovery: former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky in a shower, doing unthinkable things with a young boy, according to the seemingly endless indictment released last week.
Vice president of business and finance Gary Schultz also was reportedly informed of the eyewitness account, as was university president Graham Spanier. Educated men all of them; grown men who espoused their virtues were intrinsically linked to one of the final lines in the school's alma mater.
"May no act of ours bring shame."
Yet, not a single one of these grown men decided to follow the lyrics' lead.
Perhaps they were too busy. Protecting Penn State.
You see, the internal conflict Penn Staters nationwide are going through right now has nothing to do with the alleged heinous acts of aggravated indecent assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, unlawful contact with a minor and other ungodly crimes.
There is no conflict involved with those accounts. If true, Sandusky should, and likely will, rot in a jail cell.
Rather, the conflict comes with the mind-boggling news that five grown men -- McQueary, Paterno, Curley, Schultz and Spanier -- did little but pass the hot potato up the food chain. Then, making matters worse, Curley and Schultz allegedly lied about the matter under oath, resulting in perjury charges against both men. Charges of failure to report under the Child Protective Services Law were also levied against the two high-ranking officials.
McQueary has no legal issues and an up-for-debate moral one as the individual who allegedly witnessed the sexual crime and reported it to his superior. Paterno also is "not regarded as a target" of the investigation, but the criminal in question was a friend and employee for 33 years, and with his power within the program and community, he has many moral questions to answer as well.
This wasn't a case of plagiarism or underage drinking. This was a former coach, who was given an office in the Lasch Building after his retirement in 1999 and brought children from his foundation, The Second Mile, into the complex. Several of the crimes in question reportedly occurred on the campus of a state-run, taxpayer-funded university that's purpose is to educate, protect and mold teenagers into grown-ups.
As the links form a chain, Paterno, who was informed of the incident by a distraught McQueary, told Curley the following day, and he at some point got Schultz and Spanier involved. And not one of these university standard-bearers thought it wise to call the police.
Incomprehensible. And yet, despite those illicit feelings, after a few minutes to calm down, the emotional gambit comes right back to the perplexing nature of the situation.
What if it's all true? It can't be. But what if it is?
It can't be true because how can five people never contact the authorities? They certainly would at Miami or Ohio State, schools Penn Staters have been using as the punch line to crude jokes for years.
At Ohio State, they sell memorabilia to pay for tattoos.
At Penn State, could they really turn their eye to sexual abuse of children? It just can't be true.
But what if it is? What if the legacy Paterno has built -- the 409 wins, the two national championships, the squeaky clean recruiting, the no-name uniforms, the multi-million dollar library -- is all tarnished. What then? Does Penn State rename the building, wash its hands clean of the Paterno era?
For those who have always been Penn State proud, who have shouted the family motto from the highest of highs (Mount Nittany) to the lowest of lows (Happy Valley), how do you wipe the alleged heinous acts and the irresponsibility of so many people out of your mind?
Personally, how do I remember standing next to Paterno as he called me "Justin?" How do I remember my meeting with Curley? How do I remember the adjectives I used in my Penn State football book when describing the university's core beliefs and principles?
Maybe it's all not true. But does that make the (in)action of those involved any less reprehensible? All it took was one adult to fulfill his moral obligation, though not first to the university. No, we can be outraged, disappointed, saddened all we want, shout to the rafters that these guardians owed us more of themselves, but in actuality the biggest responsibility was to those children who couldn't protect themselves.
What if it's true? In the days, weeks, months ahead we will surely find out, but no matter what, the road back to Penn State pride will be a long one built brick by brick by over 550,000 alumni and 43,000 students.
Not by any of the men involved in Happy Valley's darkest days.
5 Thoughts on College Basketball Tip-off:
1. We get a taste of the biscuits before a buffet of basketball is served this Friday, 126 games in all. What games should you pay attention to? Belmont, one of the nation's most efficient teams, heads right into the fire pit as Duke kicks off the Austin Rivers era in a loaded Maui Invitational. Vanderbilt plays its first game with heavy expectations against a talented Oregon team that needs to harness its ability and show a more disciplined approach than what at times looked like street ball last season. Also, George Mason and Rhode Island square off in a game that could have NCAA Tournament implications far down the road.
2. The main course is the Quicken Loans Carrier Classic played on Veterans Day aboard a United States Navy Aircraft Carrier, the USS Carl Vinson. Couple the setting with two legendary programs, Michigan State and North Carolina, the Tar Heels' top-ranked target and a pair of former grads and pro teammates, the Spartans' Magic Johnson and UNC's James Worthy, serving as honorary captains and you have a made-for-TV kickoff to a highly-anticipated season.
3. Lost in the shuffle is Tom Izzo's retooling job in East Lansing. Draymond Green is the only key returnee, and he will go up against the nation's top frontline. Izzo is never one to shy away from competition, and both teams will be motivated playing such a highly publicized game aboard a docked aircraft carrier, but the Spartans must control the tempo and keep Green out of foul trouble to have any chance of an upset.
4. A pair of mid-major heavyweights, Northern Iowa and Old Dominion, square off on Saturday in a contest that has a BracketBusters feel. The Monarchs who take the floor this weekend will be completely different than the ones who nearly took out national championship runner-up Butler in the round of 64. Northern Iowa also starts the season with many new faces, but three-year starting guard Johnny Moran has to be the glue that holds the Panthers together during a two-game stretch that starts Saturday and includes a 2 a.m. (et) tip-off next Tuesday against Saint Mary's.
5. Thoughts on games already in the books: Arizona will go through a post- Derrick Williams adjustment period. The Wildcats are ranked based on past success, but head coach Sean Miller readily admits "we're not the 16th-ranked team in the country." Arizona lost an exhibition game to Seattle-Pacific, then needed nearly all 40 minutes to beat back Valparaiso in the season opener. Kyle Fogg, who scored 16 points in the 73-64 victory, needs to take the offensive reins while the four heralded freshmen get their legs under them. A nice start for Steve Lavin-less St. John's, a team that will play many games like it did Monday night, looking lost for 20 minutes and like a team of heavyweights for the other half. The Red Storm's athleticism won over William & Mary Monday night, but it needs better shot selection and ball security during an out-of-league schedule that includes the aforementioned Arizona and Kentucky.
A Look Ahead:
From The End of the Bench's full season preview comes next week, including a look back at the Carrier Classic and other games and names of note.