News,  Sports

There’s No Reviving Paterno’s Legacy

Penn State University hired Louis Freeh last November to lead an independent investigation of the alleged failure of Penn State personnel to respond to Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse of children. Freeh released his 267 page report today, and it is devastating not only to university administrators but also to Joe Paterno himself. Freeh’s report confirms what we already knew about the cover-up. But it also says that Paterno knew about the sex-abuse allegations as far back as 1998 and that he followed the official investigation of those allegations very closely. Here are two excerpts from the report that get to the heart of it:

The most saddening finding by the Special investigative Counsel is the total and consistent disregard by the most senior leaders at Penn State for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims. As the Grand Jury similarly noted in its presentment, there was no “attempt to investigate, to identify Victim 2, or to protect that child or any others from similar conduct except as related to preventing its re-occurrence on University property.” [page 14]

In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at the University – Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley – repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the University’s Board of Trustees, the Penn State commtmity, and the public at large. [page 16]

Like almost everyone else, I’ve been dismayed by the unfolding scandal at Penn State over the last seven months. Like almost everyone else, I came into it as a great admirer of Joe Paterno. His contribution to his players, to his community, and to college football have been enormous. Yet for all that, his legacy has been totally eclipsed by this enormous failure. There’s no changing that now.

In a letter that Paterno wrote just before he died, he claims that the Sandusky affair is not a “football scandal.” I disagree. It was the worship of Penn State’s football program that enabled Sandusky to groom his victims and that prompted the administration to cover up his crimes. The most powerful administrators on campus—including Paterno—tried to protect the football program by concealing Sandusky’s sexual assaults. If that’s not a football scandal, I don’t know what is.


Here are two great articles on the legacy of Joe Paterno from a Christian perspective:

Collin Hansen, “When Good Isn’t Good Enough” (The Gospel Coalition)

Barnabas Piper, “Conflicted. Complex. Complicated.” (World)


Here’s Bob Costas’ response to Freeh’s report:


  • donsands

    I liked Joe Pa as well. This is one of the most despicable sins in this world. In the OT this man would be put to death. And those who knew and kept silent would also be punished in some way, I would think.

    And the children sexually molested will grow up with many problems, and they may even become molesters themselves.

    Thanks for posting this horrible ordeal Denny. We need to talk in the Church about these things, because we have the truth of God.

    Have a blessed Lord’s Day! Jesus is our Good Shepherd, and He knows us, and His own know Him.

  • Andy Orlovsky

    I don’t think it was so far a football scandal as it was a whole university scandal. I went to Penn State. My senior year of high school was Sandusky’s last year as a coach. During all my visits up there, Sandusky was cited as an example that “Penn State is so much more virtuous than the average school”. After all, he supposedly quit a chance to be Joe’s sucessor so he could spend more time helping disadvantaged children. By the way, the 2nd mile charity was huge, it wasn’t just some rinky-dink operation that consisted of kids having sleepovers in Jerry’s basement. Thousands of kids were helped out by hundreds of volunteers who had no idea whatsoever what Sandusky was really like.

    My point is that Paterno, Schultz, Curley, and especially Spanier were trying to protect the reputation of the university, not just the football team. The truth is, while some majors may prepare students for a decent career, the university culture is a very dark place. It does not make students better human beings. In fact, it makes many worse. Socially, it is simply a huge party school that reeks of booze and primiscuous sex. Professions push Nihlism and atheism on students. Yet the alumni, many of the conservative Christians, continue to dump money into this place, all in the name of school spirit or “Penn State Pride”, even though the university already steals enough of our tax dollars to push a ungodly agenda.

    The university needed Jerry Sandusky’s reputation to continue to fool the citizens. The cover up wasn’t just about winning football games. It was about creating a fake culture of virtue for the entire university.

Comment here. Please use FIRST and LAST name.