Commentary by Bill Buchanan
I am angry and disgusted. I didn’t realize just how angry and disgusted until last week when Jodie Miller casually asked me, “So, what do you think about this Penn State deal?”
At first, I talked about my respect for Joe Paterno and the Penn State football program. I talked about the great rivalry between Alabama and Penn State —- the classic games we had played. I went on about how nice the Penn State fans were, and how well they treated our fans when we played at their stadium.
And then I caught myself.
The sex scandal at Penn State is not about a great institution, winning coaches, classic football contests, or anything of the sort. It is about how a group of people sought to sweep a heinous crime under the rug to protect reputations and institutions. If the allegations are true, they have allowed a sexual predator to remain free to prey upon innocent children for years.
When that sunk in, my sympathy, respect and admiration for Joe Paterno and Penn State went out the window. Now that the scandal is out in the open, everyone is either running for cover, covering their own butt, or both. I am sick of hearing how people “reported the incident to their superiors” and “didn’t really know the details of what transpired.” One coach, who was a graduate assistant at the time, reported that he actually witnessed the rape of a 10-year old boy. He didn’t even tell anyone until the next day, and then he reported to coach Paterno, instead of calling the police. What was he thinking?
Incredibly, this assistant was not only retained, he was scheduled to coach last weekend until the university received threats and it was decided to pull him for his own safety. What was the university thinking?
Lying and cover-ups to protect prominent people and institutions are nothing new. History has borne out over and over again that no matter how bad the initial crime may be, the cover-up is almost always worse. Ask G. Gordon Liddy. Ask Bill Clinton. Ask the boys from Enron.
Some people have tried to justify the acts of coach Paterno, other Penn State coaches and school administrators, saying they acted in a legally correct manner in the way they reported the situation. Well, it may have been technically legal, but it was morally abhorrent. They can try to spin it and try to cover their backs and their paychecks, but the bottom line is this: These men had evidence that a sexual predator was molesting children and they did nothing to stop it.
You can justify almost anything if you want to. But it makes you want to ask these people, what if this had been your child? Would you offer up the same feeble excuses?
And how would they respond if one of the young victims asked, “Why didn’t you protect me?”