Joe Paterno is out, tossed aside like so much rubbish after 62 years of extraordinary service to Penn State. But Mike McQueary who actually saw the sexual assault that resulted in the ouster of Penn State’s legendary coach and did nothing about it other than tell Paterno, is still coaching for Penn State and apparently faces no disciplinary action by the University. Huh? How can that be, you say? It gets curiouser and curiouser in Happy Valley.
Unless you’re in a cave somewhere you know by now that yesterday the Penn State University Board of Trustees voted to oust the university’s legendary coach Joe Paterno “effective immediately” for his failure to do more than he did when alerted to a child sexual abuse situation in which a retired PSU coach, Jerry Sandusky, was witnessed sexually abusing a 10 year boy in the Lasch Building which houses the Penn State Football locker rooms, offices, weight room, classrooms, and more. Paterno first heard of the ugly child sexual molesttion incident from then graduate assistant Mike McCreary, and within 24 hours of hearing of it he passed the information along to the Athletic Director. The Board of Trustees and most of Pundit America felt Paterno’s response was fatally flawed, and even the announcement by Paterno that he would voluntarily retire at the end of this year after 62 years of service including 46 years as head coach was not enough to derail the “Let’s fire him now” freight train.
Now that Paterno has been dealt with, the focus of the “who’s responsible for this” morality play may well begin to shift to Mike McQueary, who at the time of the incident was a 28 year old graduate assistant and is now the Penn State receivers coach. McQueary seems to be Mr. Teflon in this matter, both legally and in the court of public opinion. After all, he’s the one who saw a sixty year old guy anally raping a 10 year old boy and what did he do? He could have intervened — he’s a big jock ex football player after all, but he didn’t. He could have immediately called the campus police while the assault was still happening – but he didn’t. Instead, he called his Daddy and went to talk to him first, then after that strategy session was cmoplete, the next morning he went to Paterno and told him of the incident. What the details (or lack thereof) were of what he told Paterno is a matter of some uncertainty. Paterno claimed firmly in sword testimony before the Grand Jury that while McQueary was obviously upset, at no time did he describe any of the details of what he had seen. The Grand Jury report is inexplicably silent on what McQueary says he told Paterno. Is this an oversight? Unlikely.
After hearing from McQueary on Saturday, Paterno then, following protocol, passed the report on Sunday to athletic director Tim Curley, his boss (at least technically). According to Paterno he told Curley that McQueary had witnessed some type of “inappropriate behavior” of a sexual nature between Sandusky and a 10 year old boy the night before in the showers of the Lasch building. Paterno was not more specific than that, he claims, because that was as specific as McQueary got with him. Paterno did not take any further action — and for that, his 62 years of service at Penn State have been abruptly and unceremoniously terminated, while McQueary, who arguably did less than Paterno and contributed more to the situation that exists today, emerges unscathed, his job intact.
First of all, even a cursory reading of the Grand Jury Presentement reveals that McQueary is what is known as a “cooperating witness” — meaning he has cut a deal with the government under which he is receiving some degree of benefit in return for his cooperation against everyone else. The evidence for this begins and ends with the fact that unlike everyone else cited in the Presentment, he is not named, but rather is referred to as the “Graduate Assistant” throughout. This is normally done to protect the identity of a cooperating witness — although in this situation it does the opposite, since that wintness’s identity is already known and the special treatment given him in the Presentment simply screams that he’s “rolling” on everyone else — AD Tim Curley and VP Gary Schultz to start with, since those two have been indicted and face charges, and quite probably Paterno as well.
In the report, Curley and Schultz both maintain that McQueary was vague and nonspecific in his reporting of the incident to them, which is also what Paterno says of McQueary’s report to him. Interestingly, the Presentment states that the Grand Jury found key portions of the testimony of Curley and Schultz to be “not credible” — presumably referring to the key point about what, exactly, McQueary said to them. The report states that it finds McQueary’s testimony “highly credible”. Ironically (and intriguingly), even though Paterno makes the same claim; i.e. that McQueary was vague, the Grand Jury report is silent on whether or not it finds Paterno’s testimony credible.
Now think about the logic of this for a minute.
Paterno, Curley, and Schultz are all consistent in that they say McQueary never gave the details of what he had seen, and made it seem like some substantially lower level of “inappropriate behavior — serious to be sure, but not an anal rape by any stretch. There is no paper trail — so everything turns on whether the Grand Jury believes its Cooperating Witness, or the people he is cooperating against. Clearly the Grand Jury chose to believe the CW — but then why do they not question Paterno’s credibility, since what he is saying is the same thing that Curley and Schultz are saying?
Also — while the report is clear that McQueary’s account is materially different than the accounts of Curley and Schultz — it is silent on whether he claims to have been specific with Paterno, or not. Why?
First of all — you can take it to the bank that McQueary testified to the Grand Jury that he was specific with Paterno. Otherwise his claim that he was specific with Curley and Schultz would be undercut, and his credibility would be doomed. If he acknowledged not being specific with Paterno, it would undercut his contention that he was specific with the others.
So when contemplating the Board of Trustees rush to fire Paterno — keep in mind that they are probably working on the understanding that, since they have bought into McQueary’s version (which is the government’s version), they believe Paterno lied in his testimony. This helps to explain why the Board couldn’t even let Paterno coach one more day.
That’s the only way it makes any sense. Nothing short of that could really explain the rush to judgment on Paterno, and the rush to abruptly end a storied career that spanned six decades.
But there’s more.
What makes McQueary Mr. Teflon? Why is he still coaching if Paterno is not. After all his actions are equally reprehensible and in fact mirror Paterno’s (if you view him charitably) and are egregiously worse than Paterno’s if you take him to task for having actually had a chance to stop the assault or cause the police to do so — and he didn’t.
So why is he a Penn State coach?
Well, it goes back to him being a Cooperating Witness. The government needs him in their case against Curley and Schultz — without him, they have nothing. There is no paper trail on any of this — all there is, is McQueary’s version of events, Paterno’s version of events, and Curley and Schultz’s version of events. The government has decided to embrace McQueary, and to do that he needs to be protected. The only problem is that it seems the government and PSU officials didn’t think this all the way through. They think he can continue coaching and are committed to letting him do so — but the dynamics of the situation say otherwise. The Penn State riots last night speak to the very substantial level of outrage felt by a substantial portion of the Penn State community, and you can be sure that McQueary, after Sandusky himself, is going to be viewed as the villain in the scenario by Paterno supporters.
The Board of Trustees has already begun to show signs they recognize the situation they face — today word leaked out that McQueary will not be on the sidelines for security reasons at Saturday’s Nebraska game, but rather will be in the Press Box.
But I predict that decision will fall and McQueary will be held out completely rather than face the hostility that is sure to be visited on him by the Paterno faithful.
All in all — it’s a fine mess Penn State has gotten itself into. If I were McQueary, I would be drafting my resignation papers. He isn’t going to be credible in Happy Valley after having rolled on Paterno, and the sooner he, the Board of Trustees, and the Attorney General realize that the better it will be for everyone. How they ever thought he could continue as a coach at Penn State is hard to fathom.
It’s hard to imagine how PSU officials could make a bigger hash of a horrible situation — but we’ll continue to watch the train wreck unfold. It’s awful.