Moral leaders absent at Penn State
A leader without moral actions isn’t a real leader.
That’s the essence of the current situation at Penn State University, where the campus and community is engrossed in arguably the most morally reprehensible story in college athletics (and there have been plenty).
By now everyone is likely familiar with the back story of former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky being arrested for sexually inappropriate behavior with at least eight boys (one as young as 8-years old) the past decade-plus. Nobody is arguing that his behavior, if true, is deplorable and he should be punished to the greatest extent allowed in a civilized society.
What is being argued, however, is whether leadership on Penn State’s campus did enough. Obviously, that answer is a resounding, “No!”
A Penn State graduate assistant who witnessed one of the incidents in the football locker room showers went to head coach Joe Paterno’s home the next day (a Saturday) to inform him of what he witnessed in 2002. But why didn’t he intervene during the moment?
Paterno waited a day before calling his boss, athletic director Tim Curley, on Sunday to tell him of what the grad assistant had witnessed. Curley and Gary Schultz, a senior VP who oversaw the campus police department, later met with the witness, and followed up by informing the president, Graham Spanier. What each party was specifically informed about will be argued in the courts.
Curley and Schultz ultimately decided to ask Sandusky, who was retired but still had a campus office and access to facilities, to stop bringing children onto campus. That’s it! No one followed up with the campus or city police. And the president of the university, Spanier, signed off on this ridiculous resolution to this incident.
All parties also should have been aware of an investigation four years earlier in 1998 in which Sandusky, who was still a coach at that time, was found to be showering with a young boy in the locker room. After an abbreviated investigation, campus police were told to close the case and Sandusky wasn’t prosecuted.
Thirteen years later, Sandusky is finally being prosecuted, but only after many other young boys have allegedly been forever physically and emotionally ravaged by the former Penn State assistant coach.
Penn State’s leaders—whether it be Coach Paterno, AD Curley, or President Spanier—had two different opportunities to end Sandusky’s deviant conduct. Both times, all three passed the buck or attempted to bury it. I’m sure all three are generally fine men, and in fact I’ve had various opportunities to sit down and talk with Paterno. But the true test of moral leadership is doing the right thing in difficult circumstances. None of them did.
Now, all three should be punished appropriately. Curley has taken administrative leave, but is still receiving his salary. Paterno is finishing up another season as the winningest football coach in Division I history, but he should not be given the opportunity to return for another year. And Spanier, the leader of the campus who is ultimately responsible for everything that takes place at Penn State, has proven he’s no leader at all.