What Did Paterno Know?


As Jerry Sandusky's trial starts, Luke Dittrich revisits Joe Paterno's role:

You will find, if you dig into [Paterno's] archives from 1998, that he was a very busy man — he wrote in one letter that he had "committed all my free time to" and was "really stretched" by the ongoing fundraising campaign. You will find that he was a very reliable man as well. When he planned to do something, he would do it. In fact, if you look at his agenda from 1998, you'll see that he almost always kept to his schedule, and that his only cancellations fall within a very narrow window of time. The first cancellation is on May 15, two days after police listen in on Sandusky's half-confession to the mother of a young boy. That evening, Paterno cuts short a fundraising trip to Valley Forge, then cancels a four-day-long personal vacation he had been planning to take from May 16 to 19, to his summer home in Avalon, New Jersey. He resumes his scheduled fundraising trips in June, about a week after the investigation against Sandusky is dropped. He doesn't miss any more events for the remainder of the year.

The following season, Sandusky abruptly and unexpectedly announces his retirement. Did Joe know? Who knows. The files raise questions but provide no answers. And regardless, it doesn't change the basic fact, testified to by almost everyone who's ever met him or worshiped him: Joe Paterno was a good man. But let's just agree on one more thing. Joe Paterno did precisely what school regulations required him to do in 2002, when a graduate assistant came to his home to tell him he had just witnessed Jerry Sandusky molesting a preadolescent boy in a shower stall at the football building. Joe Paterno notified another Penn State administrator. Joe Paterno did not do anything more than that.

There are lots of words you could use to describe Joe Paterno's behavior. Managerial. Bureaucratic. Lawful. Heroic? Let's agree that if you are going to look for any real heroes in this story, you're going to have to look elsewhere.

Dish coverage of the fallout here, here, here, here and here.

(Photo:  Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky arrives to the Centre County Courthouse before jury selection begins in the Sandusky child sex abuse trial on June 5, 2012 in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. Sandusky is a former Penn State assistant football coach charged with sexually abusing children. By Patrick Smith/Getty Images)