Philadelphia, PA – It's not like it came as a tremendous shock to anyone who has followed the story, but former FBI Director Louis Freeh and his team came down hard on Penn State Thursday morning, following a long investigation into the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
In the 267-page report, the opening to the findings section says it all.
"Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State. The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized."
The report was released one day after a letter written by former Penn State coach Joe Paterno surfaced in defense of the PSU football program.
"This is not a football scandal and should not be treated as one. It is not an academic scandal and does not in any way tarnish the hard earned and well- deserved academic reputation of Penn State."
"Let me say that again so I am not misunderstood: regardless of anyone's opinion of my actions or the actions of the handful of administration officials in this matter, the fact is nothing alleged is an indictment of football or evidence that the spectacular collections of accomplishments by dedicated student athletes should be in anyway tarnished," Paterno wrote.
Paterno was right that it should not reflect negatively on the accomplishments of the individual student athletes that Penn State has churned out over the years. but it is no longer an "opinion" that the university as a whole failed.
It has long been a forgone conclusion that the university, namely former President Graham Spanier, Vice President Gary Schultz, Athletic Director Tim Curley and Paterno, did not take the necessary steps to bring Sandusky's horrific crimes to light and protect the victims from further harm.
Sandusky was found guilty last month on 45 of the 48 counts against him and is awaiting sentencing. Schultz and Curly are still involved in their own criminal proceedings.
It was the Penn State board of trustees that brought Freeh into the picture, hiring him last November to review the case and provide a completely independent investigation.
To his credit, Freeh did just that, as the university did not receive a copy of the report prior to it being released on Thursday morning. While the findings are obviously thorough, as any 267-page report would be, there are some telling excerpts that strike at the very core of Penn State University.
"In our investigation, we sought to clarify what occurred, including who knew what and when events happened, and to examine the University's policies, procedures, compliance and internal controls relating to identifying and reporting sexual abuse of children. Specifically, we worked to identify any failures or gaps in the University's control environment, compliance programs and culture which may have enabled these crimes against children to occur on the Penn State campus, and go undetected and unreported for at least these past 14 years. As you will read in our report, Penn State failed to implement the provisions of the Clery Act, a 1990 federal law that requires the collecting and reporting of the crimes such as Sandusky committed on campus in 2001. Indeed, on the day Sandusky was arrested, Penn State's Clery Act implementation plan was still in draft form. Mr. Spanier said that he and the Board never even had a discussion about the Clery Act until November 2011."
It is hard to fathom why any university would fail to put a plan in place to adhere to the Clery Act, when the sole purpose of the Act is to report crimes on or near campus and promote a safe environment, which in turn, would prevent any coverups of any sort.
The report goes on to say, "In critical written correspondence that we uncovered on March 20th of this year, we see evidence of their proposed plan of action in February 2001 that included reporting allegations about Sandusky to the authorities. After Mr. Curley consulted with Mr. Paterno, however, they changed the plan and decided not to make a report to the authorities. Their failure to protect the February 9, 2001 child victim, or make attempts to identify him, created a dangerous situation for other unknown, unsuspecting young boys who were lured to the Penn State campus and football games by Sandusky and victimized repeatedly by him."
This is where Paterno is complicit, not in the crimes committed by Sandusky, but for getting together with the other men of power in Happy Valley and deciding to take another course of action other than reporting the alleged abuse.
Paterno's lifetime of achievements as a coach, educator and mentor will not be forgotten. Unfortunately, neither will his lack of action that ultimately brought down the legend and will forever tarnish the Penn State brand.