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A lot of winners have become losers in not-so-Happy Valley

Published: Fri, July 13, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

The report released by former FBI director Louis Freeh on Thursday excoriated top-ranking Penn State officials, including former president Graham Spanier and former head football coach Joe Paterno, for “callous and shocking” disregard for the young victims of a sexual predator.

If they bother to read it, the students who protested Paterno’s firing last fall should feel foolish for their misplaced priorities and ashamed for joining so many of their elders who gave so little thought to the children who had their innocence stolen.

Assistant football coach Gerald Sandusky will always be the principal villain in the Penn State tragedy, but Freeh’s report makes a case that Spanier, Paterno, former athletic director Tim Curley and former vice president Gary Schultz were his enablers.

Sandusky has been convicted on multiple counts of molestation and faces life in prison. Paterno died of cancer in January. Curley and Schultz face criminal charges of lying to a grand jury and failing to report abuse, and Spanier was removed as president but remains a tenured faculty member. Based on the Freeh report, that tenure should be revoked for nonperformance and moral turpitude, and Spanier should be out as well.

Litany of failures

The specific failure of Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley to attempt to identify and protect a Feb. 9, 2001, child victim of Sandusky “created a dangerous situation for other unknown, unsuspecting young boys who were lured to the Penn State campus and football games by Sandusky and victimized repeatedly by him,” Freeh said. There were other failures as well. Sandusky resigned as an assistant coach in 1999, after a mother complained a year earlier about him showering with her young son. Still, Sandusky was given the status of an emeritus professor and had free rein to bring adolescent boys with him to the campus athletic facilities, including the locker rooms and showers.

Freeh’s team interviewed more than 400 people and examined millions of pieces of email and written correspondence. And the conclusion they reached was that it is “reasonable to conclude that, in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at Penn State University — Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley — repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the Board of Trustees, Penn State community, and the public at large.”

Damningly, the report added: “Although concern to treat the child abuser [Sandusky] humanely was expressly stated, no such sentiments were ever expressed by them for Sandusky’s victims.”

There is no whitewashing of the stain Sandusky left behind at Penn State. The only good thing that can come from this tawdry affair is a new culture on campus: one that recognizes what every young athlete is told: Winning isn’t everything.

When a football program becomes so influential that men who are respected — even revered — turn their backs on the young victims of a sexual predator, winning becomes meaningless.

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