As for published reports that he received from $200,000 to $650,000 in campaign contributions from current and past Second Mile board members and their businesses, Corbett said the amount was far lower. His office provided a PDF detailing $71,700 in such contributions to his 2010 gubernatorial campaign, for which he is unapologetic. "I can't look backwards," he said. But looking back on his decision in July 2011 to sign off on a $3 million taxpayer-financed grant—initiated by the previous administration—to the Second Mile, Corbett does have second thoughts. "Do I wish I hadn't sent that thing? Yeah," he said. "There was a great deal of pressure to get that one out. Pretty hard for me to say why I can't send it out without tipping away the investigation."
During Sandusky's trial it was revealed that the investigating trooper believed Fisher alone provided enough evidence to charge Sandusky with indecent assault in December 2008—and that Sandusky continued to rape at least one child months after Fisher made his initial report. But Corbett insists that Fisher's credibility would never have survived even a preliminary hearing, and that it wasn't until McQueary's story surfaced in late 2010—after Corbett had been elected governor—that the investigation gained the numerous victims and witnesses necessary to win a prosecution.
The idea that he slowed the prosecution so as not to alienate Penn State voters? "[With] the vast majority of 'Penn State voters,' I believe if we would've arrested and convicted [Sandusky], say, three months before the election, I would've gotten more votes!" Corbett said. "However, people would also say, 'It's political. He should've waited until after the election.'"
Of course, Corbett calls all this "Monday morning quarterbacking." Nearly everything in Pennsylvania these days gets refracted through the prism of football, and he's not popular in Happy Valley. He feuded with Spanier, and his exhortation to "remember the children" during the fateful trustees' meeting on Nov. 9 were among the last words heard before the board voted to fire Paterno. Corbett mouths the local line—Joe never should have been fired by phone, Freeh moved too fast, the sanctions are far too extreme—but all anyone wants to talk about is the baggage.
Not that Corbett can stay away. He said he'd be flying up for the Ohio State game. "Wait till Saturday," he said. "This one's going to be huge."
It was. They were calling it the Banned Bowl and the Sanction Showdown, because both Penn State and Ohio State are ineligible for postseason games, and this, too, is a commentary on the NCAA and the state of college sports: No sporting event in America last Saturday had a larger attendance. Beaver Stadium was packed with 107,818 people, most of them Nittany Lions fans wearing white. Homecoming felt long ago.
Joyner, standing in the milling crowd beforehand, compared Penn State to a body after grievous injury: First there's shock, then healing, and now it's gaining strength—fast. This is all because of O'Brien and his team, which is more disciplined and daring than anyone expected. That undefeated Ohio State won 35--23 doesn't matter much: Only 10 PSU players, including star running back Silas Redd and wide receiver Justin Brown, transferred out in the Sandusky aftermath; the rest stayed to take a punishment they didn't deserve. They'll be remembered forever for that.
"Everywhere you go, people are thanking us for just staying," said senior linebacker Michael Mauti. "I probably have over 2,000 e-mails from fans, people reaching out and supporting us, letting us know where they stand. It means the world that we have everybody behind us and sticking together. It's what needs to be done."
Kretchmar's right: Penn State may never get over this. When Erickson, the school president who signed the consent decree, stepped on the field with Joyner at halftime, a cascade of boos rolled down from the stands. But then Erickson stepped off, the players ran out, and sports did what it does best. It makes you move on, even maybe when you shouldn't.
Ten times in the final seconds the crowd chanted, "We are ... Penn State!" Then the team ran to one corner to face the students, and together they all sang the alma mater, one collective voice bellowing the lines May no act of ours bring shame/To one heart that loves thy name louder than all others. Guilt may have something to do with that, but it sure sounded good.