For most fans, college sports represents all that is right with the world. However, the sexual allegations that have come out of the Penn State and Syracuse Universities campuses over the past month have rocked that notion to its very core. Yet, as horrific as these two stories are, believe it or not, some good can from this.
It was hard for most people to stomach news coming out of Happy Valley, Pennsylvania, where former Penn State University Linebacker Coach Jerry Sandusky was arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting several young boys associated with the Second Mile Foundation. Then, two weeks later, Syracuse University Assistant Basketball Coach Bernie Fine was accused of the same. Now there are some similarities and
differences to both cases.
In both situations, the schools conducted their own internal investigations. In the Penn State case a Grand Jury was convened and the charges were dropped. The wild thing about both situations was
that the head coaches were placed under the microscope more than the actual accusers. PSU Head Coach Joe Paterno eventually lost his job and there are some that are calling for Syracuse Head Basketball Coach
Jim Boehiem’s head.
For years, Paterno set the standard for how to run a college athletic program or so we thought. Since these alliterations surfaced, we have come to find out that he basically overstepped his boundaries,
especially when it came to disciplining his football players. He battled with several school administrators when it came to his players’ off-the-field problems, once even sending a memo to the
school’s Vice President of Student Affairs indicating that he knows the best way to discipline the members of his teams. On several occasions, his rulings regarding his team members were handled much
differently than if they were just average students.
At least nine young men have come out and accused Sandusky of these allegations and there was apparently a witness to one of the attacks. One witness cited in the grand jury report was a graduate assistant
who said he saw a late-night assault involving a 10-year-old boy in March 2002 in the locker room of a football building on the university campus. The graduate assistant told his father, who was also on the
PSU staff, and they both went to Paterno the next day. Paterno then went to the Athletic Director, who conducted his own investigation. According to Paterno, he did not hear of anything beyond that.
Now keep in mind there was another investigation into Sandusky back in 1998, and the next season, Sandusky unexpectedly retired. He was able to remain on campus and use the school’s facilities where the Second
Mile Foundation was located.
Initially, the support for Paterno was overwhelming. But as more and more information surfaced, that support began to wane and coach was relieved of his duties. The overwhelming sentiment was that he should
have done more, which he himself admitted. The question that many people have asked over the past month is If Paterno would have nipped this in the bud back in 1998, perhaps there would have been less victims over the years.
Some feel the same way with Boeheim. Fine’s accusers claim that he abused them in his hotel room during road trips. His accusers’ ages ranged from 8 to 18 years old. Many are questioning why kids that
young were staying with Fine on the road? Boeheim vehemently defended his friend of over 40 years at first. Then, when a secretly recorded tape between Fine’s wife and one of the accusers that incriminated
Fine was released, Boeheim did a 180-degree turn. He went from bashing the accusers to championing the causes of sexually abused victims.
And that is where the focus and attention should be on, the victims. If any good has come out of this horrific situation, it is empowering victims of these assaults. As a society we used to sweep these
allegations under the rug or ignore them all together. Now people are talking about this and victims have gathered the courage to come out and speak up on their experiences. Let’s hope more will come out and
face this situation head on. That will be the best therapy for all of those involved.
My mother use to say, “It will all come out in the wash!” It does not look good for Sandusky and Fine. But they are due their day in court and we should let the judicial process take its course. I just hope
that victims get their justice if these two men are found guilty and we can let the healing process begin.