By Shawn Annarelli
Joe Paterno thought he did the right thing.
That much I am certain of, because being righteous is the Paterno way. It’s the Penn State way, and the two are inseparable. However, what we think is right in the moment does not always prove to be righteous later. Paterno has learned that to be true.
“I wish I had done more,” Paterno said in a statement on Wednesday morning prior to being fired later in the night.
Paterno said this in reference to his actions following a meeting with then graduate assistant Mike McQueary on the morning of March 2, 2002. According to the Grand Jury Presentment, which contains mature content, McQueary testified that he witnessed former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky subjecting a boy of about ten years old to anal intercourse on March 1, 2002. McQueary fled to his office and called his dad. McQueary’s father told his son to go to Paterno. Then, Paterno reported to his superior, Athletic Director Tim Curley. In effect, Paterno fulfilled his legal obligation by reporting an alleged on-campus crime to his superior.
If only he had fulfilled his moral obligation, too.
Paterno did the bare minimum in March of 2002, which is not what he has always stood for. Paterno is an individual that believes in striving for excellence on and off of the football field, but he did not put forth his best effort to ensure what allegedly happened to a boy in 2002 would never be alleged again.
Paterno could have called the police. He didn’t. Paterno could have driven McQueary to the nearest police station. He didn’t. Each action includes notifying the police and trying to stop what happened the night before.
Consider for a moment that your child or a younger sibling had allegedly been sexually assaulted by a grown man. Consider that another grown man walked in on the rape. Wouldn’t you want the other grown man to do one of two things? McQuery could have stopped what was happening and then called the police, or he could have called the police to stop what was happening. Each action includes calling the police and stopping what he saw happening.
Instead, the grown man that witnessed the sexual assault did not choose those two options and went to his father and Paterno. If the victim was your child or younger sibling wouldn’t you want each of those three men to immediately call the police upon learning something was awry?
And wouldn’t you want to know why they were content with passing the buck up the chain of command in hoping that someone else would stop the buck and notify police?
Ultimately, no one stopped the buck, and the alleged predator continued to run an organization aimed at helping young children in disadvantaged situations. The alleged predator continued to walk freely into his Lasch Football Building office and all across Penn State campuses as if there had never been the slightest suspicion that he may have raped a boy in a campus shower.
Everything after 2002 could have very easily been avoided if Paterno, McQueary or McQuery’s dad had stopped the buck and gone to police.
They didn’t, and we’ve discovered nine years later that they did live up to their legal obligation by passing the buck to the next guy up. However, they did not live up to their moral obligation to explore every possible avenue to stop an alleged sexual predator. They did not strive for excellence. They did not live up to the Penn State way.
They include Paterno, someone who could have and should have done more to protect defenseless children.