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Berry Tramel

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Penn State: Barry Switzer knew, and so did we

by Berry Tramel Published: July 13, 2012

The Freeh Report is out, and Penn State leadership — including the late Joe Paterno — has been damned for failing to act against Jerry Sandusky, who since has been convicted of child molestation. In other words, no big news there.

Oct. 22, 2011 file photo, Penn State coach Joe Paterno walks off the field after warmups before Penn State's NCAA college football game against Northwestern in Evanston, Ill. Paterno and other senior Penn State officials "concealed critical facts" about Jerry Sandusky's child abuse because they were worried about bad publicity, according to an internal investigation into the scandal released Thursday July 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)
Oct. 22, 2011 file photo, Penn State coach Joe Paterno walks off the field after warmups before Penn State's NCAA college football game against Northwestern in Evanston, Ill. Paterno and other senior Penn State officials "concealed critical facts" about Jerry Sandusky's child abuse because they were worried about bad publicity, according to an internal investigation into the scandal released Thursday July 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)

From the first stories back in November, it seemed clear what had happened. Penn State swept under the rug allegations and reports that Sandusky was at best guilty of serious improprities with children and at worst was a monster.

Louis Freeh, the former director of the FBI hired by Penn State trustees to investigate the case, said Thursday, “Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State. The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized.”

Remember what Switzer said last November, when he talked to our Jenni Carlson? “Having been in this profession a long time and knowing how close coaching staffs are, I knew that this was a secret that was kept secret,” Switzer said. ”Everyone on that staff had to have known, the ones that had been around a long time.”

In other words, Paterno knew. And didn’t we all?

The Freeh report is full of details and incriminating emails, but the gist was clear months ago. Nothing much happened in Happy Valley without Joe Paterno’s knowledge or even endorsement. The idea that an assistant coach could claim to have seen Sandusky assaulting a young boy and Paterno not know? That’s beyond silly. The idea that Penn State leadership might address the issue without Paterno’s input or Paterno’s guidance? Not going to happen. Paterno had ruled Penn State for decades. That wasn’t going to change at such a critical moment.

Paterno was trying to save his reputation and his job. Ten years ago, Nittany Lion football had slipped. Some wanted him out, though they were powerless to effect change. But a scandal like Jerry Sandusky would have been enough fodder. Sandusky was Paterno’s lieutenant for 30 years. Paterno turned away from the allegations not to protect Sandusky, but to protect Paterno and the facade of his legacy.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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