When A Cover-Up Causes More Damage

Penn State to take down Joe Paterno statue

Photo: AP

The horrendous crimes against children committed by Jerry Sandusky are inexcusable and unforgivable.The highly-paid administrators that chose to protect the image of Penn State at the expense of Sandusky’s victims have been condemned in the investigation report.

To them, the image of the Penn State football program was more important than protecting the young victims of Sandusky.

Ironically, their actions to protect the image of the school and its football program have done the opposite. Even ardent supporters of Coach Paterno are stunned by the revelations of his involvement in the cover up. In fact, Penn State just removed Paterno’s statue that stood in front of the stadium in which his teams won so many games.

Joe Paterno and Penn State

When he learned that prosecutors were investigating his longtime assistant coach Jerry Sandusky for sexually assaulting young boys, what did Joe Paterno do? According to the New York Times, he negotiated a new contract worth roughly $5.5 million.

Prior to his termination and passing, Joe Paterno was an iconic coach that fans saw as the head of a “religion” known as Penn State football. While so many thought of him as a great leader on the football field and in the classroom, he failed to lead when young kids needed him the most.

Before his passing, he even admitted that perhaps he should have done more to protect the victims. In addition to costing him his job, his actions and inactions have forever tarnished his otherwise stellar reputation as one of the most winning coaches in college football.

As Tiger Woods discovered when his reputation took a huge hit, the taller the pedestal, the greater the fall. In the case of Paterno, his metaphorical fall from his lofty platform was physically replicated as workers removed his statue from its resting place today.

Too little too late

Penn State eventually did the right thing by cleaning house and terminating Paterno and other school administrators that failed to protect the victims. However, their actions were too little too late.
More kids were molested, and the image of school and the football program was irreparably damaged.

Cover ups cause explosions and more damage

In fact, as is often the case, putting a lid on the problem caused pressure to build and an eventual explosion. Instead of containing the damage, the attempted cover up resulted in far more damage to the image of the school and all the parties involved. Of course, for most of us, this pales in comparison with the hurt caused the victims.

Doing the right thing is the best protection

If Paterno and the Penn State administrators would have done the “right thing” and report the earliest known incident to the police, the victimization of additional kids could have been prevented and the images of the school, Paterno, and the other administrators might have been spared. When situations occur that threaten the image or reputation of individuals and organisations, there are effective remedies they should implement.

If the allegations have merit, those involved, should use the “fact procedure” to (1) admit the problem and report it to the appropriate authorities, (2) apologise, (3) limit the scope (in this case to Sandusky), and (4) propose a solution so it will not reoccur. Failure to follow this procedure has already caused tremendous damage that is likely to mushroom for years to come.

NCAA sanctions

The NCAA has already said that it would levy sanctions (“corrective and punitive measures”) against Penn State to be announced tomorrow, Monday, July 23rd. This will hurt the school, current and future students and athletes, the surrounding community, and all those connected with Penn State. The long-term damage is incalculable. Even so, the public’s greatest sympathies and concerns are for the victims that had their childhoods taken from them. All organisations and institutions need to act to insure this does not happen again.

A big mess that could have been avoided

This is a very sad tragedy that could have been avoided if the responsible parties would have acted responsibly when it was first reported to them. Now it is just one big mess that is likely to get even bigger. One can only hope that the victims find the strength to make the best of a very bad situation.

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