Thursday, November 10, 2011

Unconscionable-The Demise of Joe Paterno

Unconscionable. That is the word that I heard defined by Dean Brenda See, my contracts professor at Jones School of Law. As I sat among the class of sixty, I heard her define this word as “a shock to the conscious.” An unconscionable act is one that is so bad that it shocks the consciousness of the person who sees, or hears about such an act. It is that act that makes the mind of the beholder question the information traveling through the eyes or ears to the brain.

That is how I felt as I read the “Penn State Sandusky Grand Jury Presentment 2” last night. I read this to try to understand what happened to lead to the downfall of the Penn State Icon, Joe Paterno, the winningest coach in major college football: 84 years old; 409 victories; 2 national titles; 5 teams with unbeaten, untied seasons; the fastest rise to the 300th victory in college football history; now unemployed; fired last night; over. the. telephone. 

What I read was a shock to the conscious. It was a tale of a man with a problem that he allowed to consume his life as a fire consumes wood. He fueled this fire using his charity The Second Mile. Through it, he met his young, vulnerable victims, ranging in age from approximately seven to thirteen when he allegedly fondled, and sodomized them. Unconscionable. A man whose alleged acts were witnessed by staff, reported to Paterno, and not officially investigated until approximately eight years later.

The problematic man is Gerald A. Sandusky, former defensive coordinator for the Penn State football program where he was employed for 26 years of his 32 year football career. He established The Second Mile, a charity to help at-risk young people. The mission statement is listed as follows on the website: “The Second Mile challenges young people to achieve their potential as individuals and community members by providing opportunities for them to develop positive life skills and self-esteem as well as by providing education and support for parents and professionals addressing the needs of youth.” 

Then, according to the Grand Jury Report, he developed relationships with some of the boys who became involved in the programs of The Second Mile, took them to football games, meetings, bought them lavish gifts, hosted them at his home and then consummated some of the relationships.

Paterno reported the one incident of which he was made aware to his supervisors. But that is as far as he went. He didn’t contact authorities. He didn’t contact child protective services. He didn’t call Sandusky in for a discussion. 

His isn’t the only head to roll. Other firings and leaves of absence have occurred. According to Genaro C. Armas of the Associated Press, Penn State President Graham Spanier was also fired over the telephone. University Vice-President Gary Schultz has resigned amid criminal charges for not reporting the incidents. Athletic Director Tim Curley has taken a leave of absence amid similar criminal charges. Sandusky retired in 1999.

Such a sad ending to a career full of high achievements.

When fire consumes wood, energy is released, and the wood is converted to ash; destroyed. Similarly, the fire that consumed one man destroyed the lives of many…

 For more information I recommend the following articles:

1. PSU trustees fire Paterno, Spanier
2. Findings of the Pa. Grand Jury in the Jerry Sandusky case
3. Penn State Abuse Scandal Chilling in Details, Reach

copyright 2011 by Kathy Robbins


  1. Kathy, thanks for bringing this before us in such a way to shine light on all angles. Speaking as someone who worked child sexual abuse cases for over 10 years this case once again breaks my heart and at the same time sets my heart on fire for justice. I am saddened by the plight of Paterno but every professional institution in this day and age must know that they are mandated reporters of sexual abuse of a child and responsible for reporting to their superiors and CPS. This is as much about money, power and success as it is about abuse. How many times have we seen professional sports institutions attempt to hide and distort the truth about domestic abuse, rape, alcohol and even murder. To what links will we go to play ball? Pateno is a victim in all of this but I hold everyone responsible who had knowledge and didn't go to the ends of the earth to protect children. I pray these young people are not further victimized and their stories overshadowed by the plight of Paterno.

  2. You make a great point Kim--this is about power, money and success. I wish the man who witnessed one of the acts would have had the courage to physically step in right then to protect that child. I wish he would have called the authorities immediately. And the seven victims who came forward to testify before the grand jury are heroes for testifying. What courage it took. The eighth victim is anonymous. They do not know who he is to ask for his testimony.I hope their stories are not overshadowed as well.
    Thank you for joining the dialogue.