Way back in 2011 one such scandal emerged, evoking shocked groans from every corner of the football universe. Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky of the Penn State Nittany Lions football team was indicted suddenly for a whopping 52 counts of child molestation, all of which occurred between 1994 and 2009 — only two years before the charges were made. He was convicted on 45 of those counts only one year later. He is currently serving a 30-year-sentence.
While these allegations of abuse were nothing compared to scandals like those that emerged from the catholic church or boy scout abuse by scout leaders, it still helped raise awareness about who we place trust in — especially when it comes to children and young adults, who may not know what to do or who to turn to in such cases.
What was worse than the abuse itself was the fact that at least three other people were eventually charged with trying to cover it up. School President Graham Spanier, Vice President Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley were all charged with failure to report the abuse, obstruction of justice, and perjury for lying under oath. Another investigation into these counts of wrongdoing was commissioned by former FBI Director Louis Freeh.
It was this investigation that helped uncover the fact that the aforementioned individuals — along with head coach Joe Paterno — had already been made aware of several allegations leveled against Sandusky as far back as 1998. According to the report, all of these individuals had completely ignored the allegations and failed to disclose any related information to the public. All related contracts with these men were terminated by the Board of Trustees.
The conduct resulted in sanctions imposed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The school was fined $60 million, all of its football victories from the years during which the abuse occurred were vacated, and the postseason was banned for 4 years. In addition, scholarships awarded to the school were reduced.
NCAA President Mark Emmert commented at the time that the sanctions were “not…just punitive, but to make sure the university establishes an athletic culture and daily mindset in which football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing and protecting young people.”
The allegations against Sandusky only came to light after then Freshman Aaron Fisher (“Victim 1” reported molestation that had been occurring for several years. Then graduate assistance and assistant coach at Penn State Mike McQueary testified during the trial that he had caught Sandusky with a boy in the showers in an obviously sexual position on approximately February 9, 2001, and that he had reported this event to school officials (who would go on to deny that they heard those exact details).
One man, a former Penn State janitor, was not able to testify about a separate incident that he witnessed because he was diagnosed with dementia before the trial began. Other boys testified about many incidents, varying in sexual nature — but all illegal.