By Steve Kallas
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Does he or doesn’t he? Only Joe Paterno knows for sure. It’s hard to believe that the administration of Penn State, or anybody for that matter, could stop the 84-year-old legend from speaking if he really, really wants to address these issues. Yesterday, I suggested that, if he really wanted to speak, he could just cross the street from the campus and hold a press conference.
But maybe his job hangs in the balance.
Or maybe worse.
If Joe Paterno really told his team yesterday that he didn’t know anything about former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky’s problems and that the allegations came as a surprise to him, well, that’s his credibility you hear being flushed down the toilet (he knew about the 2002 molestation in the shower (in graphic detail from the then-graduate assistant, according to Pete Thamel of the New York Times), he must have seen Sandusky with a little boy at the 2007 closed practice, he probably knew about the 30-page Penn State police report in 1998 discussing Sandusky showering with a little boy while still a Penn State assistant).
BUT HERE IS THE REAL ISSUE FOR JOE PATERNO
Is Paterno really in the clear in this ongoing investigation? Well, the Attorney General of Pennsylvania did qualify that “he’s not a target” statement by saying at this time or words to that effect. Furthermore, the AG seemed surprised when informed that Jerry Sandusky, as recently as 2007 (five years after he was “banned” from bringing little boys to Penn State), had brought a little boy to a closed Penn State practice. All she could muster was a “That’s an interesting question” (whether this appearance in 2007 made Paterno and the former graduate assistant more culpable) and it would be looked at “down the line.”
WHAT’S A LAWYER TO DO?
Well, Scott Paterno, Joe’s son, is a lawyer and, apparently, his father’s spokesman. He has to know that, no matter how much his father purportedly wants to talk to the media, it’s not a good idea. Here’s a comment from New York City criminal defense lawyer (and former prosecutor) Joseph Heinzmann: “It’s hard to believe, under the facts as we know them, that Joe Paterno should speak to the media. He probably believes that he is between a rock and a hard place – he wants to speak to try and “clear his name.” But he also must have been warned by his counsel that it’s a bad idea to give anyone more statements on the matter – even if they are outright denials.”
While it would be hard to believe that Joe Paterno does not have a lawyer, stubborn (and iconic) 84-year-olds might just do whatever they want to do (with or without a lawyer). Maybe Paterno will ignore his son’s and/or his lawyer’s advice not to speak. Maybe he is delusional and believes he can really talk his way out of this one (he can’t).
The reality is that Joe Paterno, in his mid-80s, hasn’t been exactly fantastic when dealing with the media in recent years about whether he should retire because of his age and/or his health and/or (for awhile, but not this year) his poor won-loss record.
But this (the Sandusky allegations and what Paterno knew, when did he know it and what did he do (and what should he have done) on a fact pattern where, it seems, dozens, if not hundreds, of people knew something terrible was going on) is a whole different ballgame.
AND WHAT ABOUT MIKE McQUEARY?
Well, what about him? He’s taking a beating on a lot of levels and is sure to lose his job (maybe worse). While it would seem that, in theory, a big guy like McQueary who saw what he saw (Sandusky allegedly raping an apparent 10-year-old boy in a Penn State shower room in 2002) should have immediately challenged the coach and stopped the event, that may not have been the reality for a twenty-something graduate assistant.
While nobody seems to understand why he didn’t go in there and “punch out” Sandusky, ponder this (and this in no way condones McQueary’s inaction on the night of the crime): If Mike McQueary went in and physically challenged a former star coordinator like Sandusky, would his (McQueary’s) college coaching career have ended right then and there?
Interesting question (and easily dismissible after the fact). But you know who had the enormous power in that situation.
Worse, as some have intimated, maybe McQueary’s rise in the Penn State program (he’s still there as of Tuesday) was somehow connected to his simply reporting it to the boss (Joe Paterno) who reported it to the boss (the athletic director) who reported it to the boss (the overseer of the Penn State police) who reported it to the boss (the school president) who, allegedly, reported it nowhere.
McQueary is a little fish in a big pond but, presumably, he’s already hired a lawyer with a brain who told him not to say anything.
LET’S NOT FORGET …
There is plenty of blame to go around here but don’t forget the alleged perpetrator of these heinous crimes is Jerry Sandusky, who has asserted his innocence and, of course, is innocent until proven guilty (you might get sick if you read the 23-page grand jury report).
But the disgrace upon this once-great university isn’t going to go away any time soon.
And it doesn’t matter what Joe Paterno says.
Or doesn’t say.