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Paterno gone, but questions at Penn State remain
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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Just because Joe Paterno is gone doesn’t mean the child sex abuse scandal at Penn State is over. Many questions remain unanswered — from how much Paterno actually knew to whether there will be any repercussions for assistant coach Mike McQueary, who told Paterno but not police about seeing former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky in a shower with a young boy in 2002.
Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, Paterno’s lead assistant on the field for the last 11 seasons, was introduced Thursday as the interim coach.
A few hours later, Gov. Tom Corbett told reporters that he supported the board of trustees’ decision Wednesday to oust college football’s winningest coach and President Graham Spanier because they didn’t do enough to alert law enforcement authorities.
“Their actions caused me to not have confidence in their ability to continue to lead,” said Corbett, who is on the board and is in State College for another, previously scheduled session.
Sandusky, Paterno’s former assistant and onetime heir apparent, has been charged with molesting eight boys in a 15-year span. In the week since the grand jury released its report, Paterno and Spanier have been fired and two other top university officials also are out.
“Certainly every Pennsylvanian who has any knowledge of this case, who has read the grand jury report, feels a sense of regret and a sorrow to also see careers end,” Corbett said. “But we must keep in mind that when it comes to the safety of children, there can be no margin of error, no hesitation to act.”
Board vice chairman John Surma said in announcing the firings of Paterno and Spanier, one of the longest-serving college presidents in the nation, that “change was necessary.”
“To allow this process to continue was going to be damaging to the university,” Surma said.
Bradley, who testified before the grand jury, declined to reveal what he said, but added: “We all have a responsibility to take care of our children. All of us.”
Even Paterno himself acknowledges he should have done more.
McQueary, who is Penn State’s wide receivers coach, told a state grand jury that in March 2002, he saw Sandusky sodomizing a boy of about 10 in the showers at the Penn State football building.
McQueary later told Paterno, Curley and a university vice president, Gary Schultz about the incident, although it is not clear how detailed his description was. Schultz, in turn, notified Spanier.
Curley and Schultz — as well as Paterno — testified that they were told that Sandusky behaved inappropriately in that 2002 incident, but not to the extent of McQueary’s graphic account to the grand jury.
Curley and Schultz have been charged with perjury and failure to report the incident to authorities, as required by state law. Curley is on temporary leave and Schultz has retired. Through his attorney, Sandusky has denied the charges.
Paterno is not a target of the criminal investigation, having fulfilled his legal duties by reporting the incident to Curley and Schultz. But the state police commissioner called Paterno’s failure to contact police or follow up on the incident a lapse in “moral responsibility.”
Paterno has not said why he didn’t go inform law enforcement authorities, nor has he said whether he was aware of any earlier alleged assaults. Aside from a few brief comments outside his house and two statements, Paterno has not spoken publicly since Sandusky was indicted.
“A tragedy occurred, and we all have to have patience to let the legal process proceed,” Paterno said in a statement after he was fired.
McQueary has not spoken publicly, either. His mother, Anne, said Thursday they have been advised not to.
Then 28, McQueary was “distraught” after witnessing the alleged 2002 assault, according to the indictment. Yet it appears he may have continued to participate in fundraising events with Sandusky — including one held less than a month later.
Sandusky was a coach at a March 28, 2002, flag-football fundraiser for the Easter Seals of Central Pennsylvania, and McQueary and other Penn State staff members participated by either playing or signing autographs, according to a “Letter of special thanks” published in the Centre Daily Times.
The paper also reported that McQueary was scheduled to play in The Second Mile Celebrity Golf Classic in 2002 and 2003. The Second Mile is the charity Sandusky founded in 1997 to provide education and life skills to almost 100,000 at-risk kids each year.
And in 2004, the Centre Daily Times reported that McQueary played in the third annual Subway Easter Bowl Game, an Easter Seals fundraiser that was jointly coached by Sandusky.
Sandusky, a former Penn State player and assistant for 30 years, including 22 as defensive coordinator, had long been considered the likely successor to Paterno. But Paterno told Sandusky around May 1999 that the assistant wouldn’t be getting the top job.
According to the indictment, one of the alleged victims testified that Sandusky was “emotionally upset” after that meeting with Paterno, and Sandusky announced his retirement the next month.
Sandusky cited as reasons for his retirement his desire to spend more time with The Second Mile, as well as taking advantage of a generous retirement package that included continued use of an office and access to the Penn State athletic facilities. Several of the alleged assaults took place on Penn State property.
Sandusky was just 55 when he retired with a sparkling resume. He stepped off college football’s fast track when he would have been considered a top candidate for vacancies at any big-time program.
Despite spending most of his career at Penn State as a defensive assistant and succeeding Sandusky as defensive coordinator, Bradley had little to say about his predecessor.
“Sandusky was a defensive coordinator when he worked with the Nittany Lions and I worked underneath him,” Bradley said.
Penn State has said Bradley will be interim coach for the rest of the season, beginning with Saturday’s home finale against Nebraska. It has not said if Bradley will be a candidate for the permanent job, nor given any timeline of when a new coach will be in place.
It’s not even clear who will do the hiring, with Curley on leave and provost Rodney Erickson serving as interim school president.
“We’re obviously in a very unprecedented situation,” Bradley said. “I have to find a way to restore the confidence.”