Penn State's trustees announced late Wednesday night that Coach Joe Paterno won't be able to retire on his own terms, as he had hoped.
I don't think they had any choice.
One of the nice things about having multiple opinion writers is that you may get more than one take on a hot issue. When I realized that my colleague Paul Carpenter intended to defend Paterno Wednesday, we had a spirited discussion about it. I've already written two blogs on the reports arising from the indictment of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, essentially arguing that Paterno's behavior was morally reprehensible and drawing a flood of impassioned responses on both sides of the argument. But I'll weigh in here, too.
• According to the grand jury report, a 28-year-old graduate assistant coach — Mike McQueary, now the team's receiver coach — went into the locker room on a Friday night in March 2002 and saw a naked Sandusky having anal intercourse in the shower with a 10-year-old boy.
"The graduate assistant left immediately, distraught," the report said.
There's been a lot of discussion, as there should be, about the fact that according to his own statement, McQueary fled rather than rescuing the boy from the alleged sexual assault. Instead, he went to his office and called his father. Together, they met Paterno in his home the next morning. Paterno received his report, noting that McQueary was very upset, and called Athletic Director Tim Curley to his home "the very next day, a Sunday, and reported to him that the graduate assistant had seen Jerry Sandusky in the Lasch Building showers fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy," according to the grand jury.
Paterno's defenders have argued that this briefing of the athletic director relieved Paterno of his responsibilities for further action. Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz, who among his other administrative duties oversees the campus police, also became involved at some point, although there's conflicting information in the report, and he and Curley met with McQueary a week and a half later.
No report ever was filed with any police or other authorities, campus or otherwise. McQueary never was asked to tell his story again until he was called before the grand jury last year.
Has anyone considered what happened to that 10-year-old for the rest of that weekend, never mind the last nine years, while the bureaucratic niceties were being observed at such a casual pace? He apparently didn't get much consideration here. If McQueary saw what he testified he saw, I'm appalled that no one showed any sense of urgency about finding and protecting this child.
I've heard a lot of speculation about "what did Paterno know and when did he know it." According to the grand jury report, he knew it the next morning, and not in the vague terms that his canned statement claimed. Can you imagine strong-willed, forceful Joe Paterno not saying, "Tell me exactly what happened?" I can't, unless Paterno desperately wanted not to know.
But even if all he was told was that Sandusky was engaged in sexual activity of any kind with a young boy, I submit that any morally responsible adult would insist that the police be called immediately and an investigation launched. "Here's the phone. Here's the number. Call the police." As a longtime admirer, that's the Coach Paterno I thought I knew.
This Coach Paterno sent the McQuearys on their way and arranged to meet another day later with the athletic director to pass this news up the chain of command and wash his hands of it, like he was some timid junior middle manager instead of the most powerful man in Happy Valley.
The way this was handled makes sense only if we assume that the primary consideration — for everyone involved — was the protection of the Penn State football program's squeaky-clean reputation, even at the expense of a 10-year-old child and potential future victims.
Yes, Joe Paterno avoided charges by kicking the call upstairs. Curley and Schultz are taking the criminal fall. Paterno announced earlier Wednesday that he wanted to help his team finish out the season "with dignity and determination" before stepping down.
But if you believe a college football coach should be a molder of young men, as I always thought Joe Paterno was, what kind of message has been delivered to them and everyone else?
We care more about the football program than we do about abused children? We Are … Skillful Butt-Coverers?!
Two months from now was much too late.
Bill White's commentary appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays