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THIS IS PENN STATE
L. JON WERTHEIM
November 21, 2011
"HAD SANDUSKY NOT BEEN SO BRAZEN, HAD HE SIMPLY RESTRICTED HIMSELF TO THE FOOTBALL FACILITIES, THERE IS LITTLE TO SUGGEST HE WOULD HAVE BEEN CAUGHT. FOR SANDUSKY—IF NOT FOR THE BOYS—PENN STATE FOOTBALL WAS A SAFE HAVEN."
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November 21, 2011

This Is Penn State

"HAD SANDUSKY NOT BEEN SO BRAZEN, HAD HE SIMPLY RESTRICTED HIMSELF TO THE FOOTBALL FACILITIES, THERE IS LITTLE TO SUGGEST HE WOULD HAVE BEEN CAUGHT. FOR SANDUSKY—IF NOT FOR THE BOYS—PENN STATE FOOTBALL WAS A SAFE HAVEN."

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Outsiders now look back, parsing statements and rereading passages. Sandusky often asserted that one of The Second Mile's fundamental tenets was, "It's easier to develop a child than rehabilitate an adult." His autobiography, titled Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story, recounts wrestling matches with kids and includes a photograph of Sandusky after a "pudding wrestling" bout. In the same book he offers Jer's Law: I allowed myself to be mischievous, but I didn't let it get to the point that someone would be intentionally hurt ... and I swore I would tell the truth if I was ever caught doing something wrong.

In Mill Hall, Turchetta, already a stalwart of the community, is being cast as one of the few good guys in a sordid story. Folks in town were never shy about voicing their displeasure when Coach Chet didn't play their kid or ran on a passing down, but uniformly they appreciate what they perceive to be his courage. "I applaud what he did," says Miller, the wrestling coach who also testified. "This could still be going on if not for [him]."

In truth, that may be overstating the matter. Inasmuch as Turchetta is being lauded simply for doing what he was legally and morally obligated to do, it's because his behavior contrasted so sharply with the response at Penn State. The men in Mill Hall, outside the reach of the university and unencumbered by pressures of a big-time football program, did the expected thing.

Turchetta is resisting the hero role. He's referring the hundreds of calls he's receiving to the attorney general's office. Last Thursday afternoon he walked out of his district administration building wearing a solemn expression, his square jaw set off by a thick black mustache. "I'm just moving on," he said somberly. He paused, looked down and seemed to consider the surreality of his newfound fame. "Just moving on."

Healing will be far less swift an hour down the Nittany Valley in State College. While the crisis was unprecedented in its severity, the Penn State management was—again, evidence of the school's insularity—staggeringly clumsy. Press conferences were scheduled and then abruptly canceled. Remarks were tone-deaf. Spanier all but ordered his own firing when he declared his "unconditional" support for Curley and Schultz. When various administrators expressed shock at last week's revelations, even though Sandusky had been suspected multiple times and The Patriot-News had reported in March on the grand jury investigation, it came across as more than a little disingenuous. Last week Penn State lecturer Steve Manuel veered from the syllabus for his communications class and spent the next several sessions dissecting the university's public relations disaster.

Clearly fed up with the school's spin, Paterno hired his own Washington, D.C.--based publicist and went off-message last Wednesday, candidly admitting moral culpability. He also announced that he would step down after the season. But his time for decrees was over. Hours later the board of trustees—five of whom are former Penn State football players—notified him by phone that, after 61 years, he was no longer an employee of the university.

Thousands of students left their dorms and apartments and swarmed Beaver Canyon, expressing their unhappiness with the decision. "You're digging JoePa's grave!" one female PSU swimmer despaired. As some students took part in a low-grade riot—a few of them overturned or smashed cars, while the vast majority memorialized the night with their cellphone cameras—a half-dozen football players stood at a remove, watching the scene and discussing whether any teammates needed to be extracted from the ruckus. One player, senior cornerback Chaz Powell, appeared ready to join the throng, vuvuzela in hand, but thought better of it. He tossed the horn in the trash and walked away.

On the other end of campus, a hundred or so students gathered outside Paterno's house, standing near an autumn cornucopia and a leftover Halloween ghost. Even after JoePa offered a short valediction, they stayed, most of them with moist eyes. At roughly 11:45, Sue Paterno opened the blinds, offered a wave of thanks, then turned out the lights.

On Saturday, for the first time since the Truman Administration, Penn State took the field without JoePa in a coaching role. McQueary was absent as well, placed on leave. Tom Bradley—another longtime Paterno assistant, who took over for Sandusky as defensive coordinator in 2000—served as interim head coach. (Sources tell SI some members of the board of trustees have insisted that Paterno's permanent successor must come from outside the Penn State family.) Dozens of former players stood on the sideline and sat in the stands, there to pay respects to JoePa and try to begin restitching at least a few strands of a badly frayed tapestry.

For all the ambient chaos over the last week, the tableau at Beaver Stadium was strikingly normal. Predictions of protests and mass tributes went unrealized, as though Nittany Nation was emotionally depleted, too spent to do much besides enjoy the diversion of football. Fields were full of tailgaters; the student section was loud but well-behaved; 107,903 people had filled the stands. The few earmarks of the Week That Had Been included a pregame "moment of silence for the alleged victims"—at once poignant and sadly ironic, given the role silence played in aiding the unfathomable—as well as donation boxes for child abuse prevention charities and a "blue out" in awareness of child abuse.

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