Skip to comments.Ron Bracken: Climate of secrecy led to crumbling of Camelot
Posted on 11/11/2011 8:45:31 PM PST by Colofornian
So this is how it ends, a career that was once glistening and unassailable, collapses under the weight of an unimaginable scandal?
We all, those of us who observed Joe Paterno and his program over many years, felt that it would end badly for him but none of us could have concocted such a horrific denouement.
Maybe he would let his anger get the best of him and hed physically assault an official or a member of the media. Or maybe he would say something so egregious or ill-considered that he couldnt undo it. But no one would have, could have, ever foreseen that his demise would be the result of a terrible lack of judgment involving a sordid crime against children. That was unthinkable from a man who by all accounts cherished family and children.
But in the end, not being morally outraged at the alleged misconduct of Jerry Sandusky, once one of his most valued and trusted assistants, caused Paternos career to crumble like an ancient building in an earthquake.
Its way premature to make any statement about what his legacy will be. History will determine that. Its not premature, however, to say that it will be stained by the revelations of the past week. If you include his 409 wins you also have to include this sordid episode. If you include his philanthropy toward his university you must also recognize his failure to protect young lives from the alleged advances of a predator.
He may not have known what happened prior to 1998 when the first incident involving Sandusky and a child are reported to have occurred but from that moment on he should have been on high alert to the possibility of it happening again.
Maybe he was. Maybe he was and chose to ignore or dismiss the warning signs that had to have been there. We cant profess to know. What we do know is that by his inaction a man was enabled to listen to whatever demons haunted him and do their bidding.
How could this happen in Happy Valley, the Camelot of college football?
To answer that you have to understand the culture that has prevailed for at least as long as Paterno was in charge of the football program. It was, right up until he was removed from his position Wednesday night, a climate of Kremlin-like secrecy, of tightly-controlled access, of rule by dynamic terror. It was understood that if you wanted to be around his program in a professional aspect, you did so at his pleasure and by his rules.
And that kind of climate is a petri dish for what happened in what must now be called the Sandusky Scandal.
But the toxic climate isnt confined to the football program at Penn State. Its pervasive on the campus from the lowest worker in the Office of the Physical Plant to the corner offices in Old Main. Its all about keeping your mouth shut, doing your job, looking the other way at the various indiscretions and currying favor with those above you in the food chain in order to keep or improve your position. Stray from these guidelines at your own peril.
Of course the ESPNs of the world dont care about a carpenter or a secretary. Its football that draws their cameras and drives their ratings. And when a scandal as salacious as this one is uncovered, its hard to find parking spaces for all of the satellite trucks that roll into town.
They cant conceive of how something like this could take place in such an idyllic setting. Thats because theyve never been able to peek behind the cloak of secrecy that enshrouds the Football Complex and its occupants.
Perhaps two isolated incidents can help them understand just how controlling Paterno was and how image-conscious the school is.
It was in the preseason of either the 1985 or 1986 season and, as was standard procedure at the time, a call was placed to Paterno after the first week just to get an update on how things were proceeding at that point. Various personnel questions were asked and answered until the final one, which was about the injury situation. Nothing out of the ordinary, just the usual bumps and bruises, Paterno said.
As came to light only an hour or so later, at the very time he was saying nothing unusual had happened, one of his players was laying in a hospital bed in Hershey, partially paralyzed from a practice collision. By most standards that is not only unusual but newsworthy. Fortunately, the player recovered and went on to finish his career at Penn State.
But were it not for a phone call from the players hometown paper, which had been told of the injury by the players family, it would have never come to light. For whatever reason, Paterno elected to be less than honest about it.
Flash ahead to 1992. J.T. Morris, a talented running back, wanted to leave Penn State. Paterno refused to sign his release, as he did last winter with Rob Bolden. A call to Morris confirmed that he was at home in Virginia working in a post office waiting for Paterno to release him. My future is not in my hands now, Morris said. It lies in a pen on Joe Paternos desk.
When contacted for comment on Morris comments, Paterno dismissed them, saying he and J.T. would talk. A short time later the phone on my desk rang and it was Budd Thalman, Penn States sports information director at the time. He was asking about the conversation with Morris, wanting to know what J.T. had said. And when he was told that I wouldnt divulge specifics, only saying that it wasnt complimentary to Paterno and the football program, his response was classic Penn State: I just worry that it (the story) will hurt the (football) program.
God forbid that would happen. But thats the attitude that prevails at Penn State: Protect the image at all costs and if the truth has to be whitewashed to hide it, well, break out the buckets and brushes.
And thats how this current debacle was allowed to take root and grow. Any word of it leaking out would damage the pristine image. So one after another, five adult males dismissed it as inconsequential, doing the bare minimum to even acknowledge it, then passing it up the chain of command and getting back to the business of cultivating and polishing the image. So at the risk of an unsightly blemish on the program, young lives were permanently altered in terrible ways.
Now Penn States precious image and reputation have suffered the very thing it tried so hard to avoid national exposure as a place where an assistant football coach allegedly was enabled to prey on and victimize young boys and men who could have stopped it looked away.
And now, for the first time in a long time, that is an image that is accurate.
Ron Bracken is former sports editor of the Centre Daily Times.
From the article: He may not have known what happened prior to 1998 when the first incident involving Sandusky and a child are reported to have occurred but from that moment on he should have been on high alert to the possibility of it happening again.
See...Paterno defenders...even the former sports editor in State College finds it hard to believe that Paterno didn't know about the 1998 pedophile activities of his assistant coach.
From the column: you have to understand the culture that has prevailed for at least as long as Paterno was in charge of the football program. It was, right up until he was removed from his position Wednesday night, a climate of Kremlin-like secrecy, of tightly-controlled access, of rule by dynamic terror. It was understood that if you wanted to be around his program in a professional aspect, you did so at his pleasure and by his rules. And that kind of climate is a petri dish for what happened in what must now be called the Sandusky Scandal.
PSU will not live this down in my lifetime. It is a catastrophe not ever imagined in Academia. The story is disgusting and the blind eye is criminal.
Misplaced loyalty was more important than protecting the innocent children.
Yes, those supporting Paterno are just in denial.
I didn't think it was possible, but Penn State has been able to make Michael Vick look like a choir boy...
"My honor is my loyalty."
Didn't work before and doesn't work now.
I guess you could call it that. If I saw a man of authority raping a small boy I don’t think my career would come to mind. GOD is very dis-pleased and it now shows the destruction of an entire university.
With all the problems in the world...5000 people rioted...over a football coach getting fired.....that kind of thinking is how it happened
I hope you're right. We've seen a President's sexual entertainment in the Oval office swept under the carpet by the MSM. Of course, they had a reason to; that particular President was carrying their ideological water for them.
Penn State shouldn't expect the same treatment, unless the ideological angle comes into play.
If this scandal must go into the memory hole to protect the gay agenda, into the memory hole it will go. Or, at least, the MSM will try to put it there.
The media's attempts to cover for Clinton worked, to a point, but at a huge cost to the media itself. They lost a substantial chunk of their prestige, and of their audience, as a result of it.
I wonder if there are people somewhere, this very night, calculating the potential costs of such an effort taken again in this case. They surely know that their ability to sweep the mess off stage is much less than it was 15 years ago. They also have, or will have, heavy pressures on them from the "gay axis." The risk is, of course, that they do a Clinton-style rescue mission, with a full-court press to legitimize sodomy of children, to claim that it's "the new normal" ... and the effort fails. Not only do they waste all those resources trying to push the rope, but they lose another big chunk of audience, credibility, and prestige.
I know that sounds bizarre, but I thought the whole Lewinsky thing was utterly bizarre, and the fact that Clinton survived it completely shifted my view of the reality of America as a society. We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto.
Will they try it? It seems, by all that is Holy, that they cannot. They must not. They won't be able to keep the larger story bottled up.
But if they can't, and if this goes beyond the isolated cases of Sandusky and Victims 1 through 9 (or whatever the upper bound is now)... if it comes out that Sandusky was passing these children around in return for some sort of compensation, it could alter the gay agenda in America. That will release powerful emotions among an element of the population that has become accustomed to getting its way no matter how outrageous its demands.
And this going into a Presidential election season. Obama is counting on support from homosexuals; they're one of his core constituencies. They will make demands on him with regard to this case and to fallout from it.
I understand the media reference but God has a special place for children. PSU could care less apparently. They will care now.
BTW, Obama will stay so far away from this his mouth will dry up.
Oh, did I mention? His mother and uncle are alumni.
Au contraire, he ran his mouth about it today.
I really do feel sorry for the students and especially the seniors having a great season. This is a magnitude of liability never seen in history. This school is bankrupt.
It will be interesting to see the rate of transfers from PSU next spring and the number of applications for admission next fall. I think a lot of high school kids, especially out of staters, just tossed the Penn State package in the trash.
Are you still in Ohio
Yes, Columbus suburbs.
Just tell them to get far enough away for freedom and close enough for help. Ohio has a plethora of good schools.
He’s actually interested in Miami of Ohio and the University of Cincinnati. Both are good in-state choices that are two hours away.
He would like to, but I wonder if he can.
Homosexuals tend to be pretty much perfectly bipolar about politicians, as I see it. They decide whether you're for them or against them, and if your against them you are excoriated and threatened in the most flamboyant ways they can concoct.
If Obama wants to stay in their "good graces" (what an obscenity to use that term in this context) he's going to have to help them out with this, particularly if it metasticizes and we discover that powerful homosexuals used Sandusky's charity boy-toy factory as portable R&R. The backlash from straight America will be fearsome in that case, and Obama's going to be behind the eight ball with the homosexuals.
I'll tell you something, and I hate to say it. Many problems will be solved if Sandusky is taken out of the picture. Problems of people who don't like to have problems.
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