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Commentary: Heroes fall in Sandusky scandal

Courtesy of MCT

If there’s a fine line between love and hate then the same must be true about heroes and villains.

Never has that been clearer than the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State.

Former coach Joe Paterno, who was a legend in life, is now a villain in death – a monster’s accomplice.

Thursday, any doubt that Paterno had complicit knowledge of the sexual abuse Sandusky committed during his time at the university was swept away by the Freeh report-an eight-month inquiry into the situation by former FBI director Louis Freeh.

The report turned up a series of lies, misdirection and actions that culminated into the enabling of a sick man.

Along with Paterno, the report concluded that Penn State president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz played integral parts in the cover up and may have known about as early as 1998.

“In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at the university-Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley-repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse,” the report said.

College athletics has never looked worse. (Consider the weight of that statement for a second.)

Heroes -protectors- to so many failed to serve those who could not protect themselves.

To me, the most disturbing facet in all of this is the consistent moral lapses among not just one, but many of the university’s highest officials.

I, like most people, would like to think that had I been in one of their positions, things would have been different.

I would like to think I’d blow the whistle, stop the atrocities and consequently save a few kids from the brutality of a sexual predator.

Take a poll of 10,000 people across races, ages and demographics and the overwhelming majority would undoubtedly have the same impression of themselves.

But if this situation shows anything, it’s that some of those people are wrong.

This was not one man acting alone in looking the other way. It was at least four people and probably a lot more.

Why didn’t these so-called heroes stop what was happening right in front of them?

Though they each made individual mistakes, these men were acting in the roles that were created for them by a flawed system.

It’s no secret college athletics is broken. This scandal just reveals another layer into the already deep problem.

All of these men were in charge of ensuring that Penn State was successful. That was their role and if they failed, someone would quickly be hired to replace them.

For Paterno and Curley success meant winning football games. For Spanier and Schultz it meant creating a clean, successful and powerful image to the university-something success on the football field helped maintain.

Accomplishing these goals is the driving force of college athletics, and to the people whose job it is to make these goals a reality everything else, even victimized children, becomes secondary.

The men were blinded by that pressure to succeed-a pressure so strong that it crushed heroes into villains.

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