According to a report authored by Louis Freeh, the former FBI director who conducted an investigation for Penn State University in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, and other university leaders, “repeatedly concealed facts” from proper authorities in the Sandusky case.

The report also found that while concern by university officials to treat Sandusky humanely was expressly stated, no such sentiments were expressed by university officials, including Paterno, for Sandusky’s victims.

Additionally, the report says that five boys were assaulted by Sandusky on university property after officials knew about a 1998 criminal investigation.

Freeh concluded that the primary cause of the university’s failure was a desire to avoid bad publicity.  Other contributing factors to the university-wide breakdown included:

  • A striking lack of empathy for child abuse victims.
  • Lack of oversight by the board of trustees.
  • “A president who discouraged discussion and dissent.”
  • Ignorance of child abuse issues and laws.
  • A football program that had opted out of university programs and training on reporting requirements.
  • “A culture of reverence for the football program that is ingrained at all levels of the campus community.”

While the Penn State situation is unique relative to other big-time college sports factories due to the child sex abuse involved in this case, it’s not unique in areas such as 1) lack of presidential and/or board of trustees oversight regarding the football program in particular, and athletic department in general; 2) sponsoring a football program that operates by its own set of rules relative to others on campus; and 3) having “a culture of reverence for the football program that is ingrained at all levels of the campus community.”

Apart from the tragic child sex abuse findings, the details of the Penn State case provide more evidence that too many of our major universities have warped priorities when it comes to academics and athletics on campus.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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