“[…] in 1976, a child allegedly reported to PSU’s Head Football Coach Joseph Paterno, that he (the child) was sexually molested by Sandusky.”
This line appeared in a court order from an insurance coverage case for Penn State. That one line brought back questions about Joe Paterno’s knowledge about Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse of boys at Penn State University.
Paterno died shortly before Sandusky faced dozens of charges of sexual abuse. The question at the time was how much did Paterno know about the abuse. The former head coach was known for his legendary achievements in college football. That history was marred by the abuse allegations. His family denied that he participated in any cover-up, however, Penn State funded an investigation that found that Paterno may have known about the abuse in 1998. The current implication from the court order suggests he may have known earlier than that:
The order also cites separate references in 1987 and 1988 in which unnamed assistant coaches witnessed inappropriate contact between Sandusky and unidentified children, and a 1988 case that was supposedly referred to Penn State’s athletic director at the time.
All, the opinion states, are described in victims’ depositions taken as part of the still-pending insurance case, but that, according a PennLive review of the case file, are apparently under seal.
“There is no evidence that reports of these incidents ever went further up the chain of command at PSU,” Judge Gary Glazer wrote, in determining that because Penn State’s executive officers – its president and trustees – weren’t aware of the allegations, he would not bar claims from that time frame from insurance coverage.
There is no evidence verifying these claims.
If the claims are true, it is highly unlikely someone as involved in the athletic department as Paterno was would not have heard about the allegations. It is also unlikely that no one else involved in the school knew about them. These incidents would have happened thirty years ago, and as shown in the criminal case against Sandusky, more allegations followed. It seems improbable that anyone could engage in this level of abuse for three decades without anyone noticing.
Granted, Paterno is not alive to defend himself and many of the people who may have seen the abuse may no longer be alive either. Any of the victims would be unable to press charges as they would all fall outside of the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania. That alone may keep some of them from coming forward.
Yet I suspect that the more people dig, the more it will become clear that people knew what Sandusky did to boys. They likely turned a blind eye to it because Paterno probably ignored it. I also suspect that if the latter is true, Paterno did not do it out of malice or even indifference. He may not have known how to deal with it. That would not make it right, yet I can understand how someone in his position, at his age, might not want to deal with anything like serial child rapist.
That aspect has been lost on many people. People did not begin abusing children in the 1980s. It happened long before that. The difference is that no one talked about it, and if they did it was couched in different language (most likely anti-gay language). The concept during those times was get over it, and that attitude may have informed Paterno’s silence.
At present, Paterno’s family and their team oppose any negative readings of the document. They argue:
[…] the evidence clearly shows he shared information with his superiors as appropriate.
An allegation now about an alleged event 40 years ago, as represented by a single line in a court document regarding an insurance issue, with no corroborating evidence, does not change the facts. Joe Paterno did not, at any time, cover up conduct by Jerry Sandusky.
Perhaps. And perhaps not. Again, it is difficult to believe Sandysky could abuse so many boys for so long without someone as involved with the school as Paterno hearing about it.