Last week, the Harrisburg Patriot-News broke a stunning story disclosing that for the past 18 months a state grand jury has been investigating former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky on allegations that he inappropriately touched a young boy over a four-year period.
Along with that 2009 allegation involving a student in the Central Mountain School District - where Sandusky was a volunteer assistant coach at the time; he has since resigned - came a report in the Patriot that Penn State police investigated a case in which Sandusky was alleged to have showered with a boy and washed the boy's body in the Nittany Lion football locker room in May of 1998.
No charges were filed in the case, but two months ago state police at Rockview in Centre County began calling witnesses about it, the Patriot reported. (In 2007, the statute of limitations for sex crimes against minors was extended so police have until the alleged victim's 50th birthday to file charges).
Sandusky retired at the end of the 1999 season; his retirement was announced prior to the season - on July 1.
All of which makes me think it's fair to wonder: Was Sandusky told to retire from the Nittany Lion coaching staff?
Here's another strange caveat: In late 1998-early 1999, Sandusky held discussions with Penn State Altoona about the possibility of starting a Division III football program here.
"If it's possible [to sponsor a program], I'd be interested," Sandusky told the Mirror in a story published Jan. 22, 1999. "I think it [football] would be great for Penn State Altoona."
Joe Paterno fully endorsed the idea. According to the Jan. 22 report, Paterno told then PSU Altoona Chief Executive Officer Allen Meadors, "it was time for football at Altoona."
Paterno thought Altoona could support a program and believed "eventually a lot of our branch campuses will have football."
The university sanctioned a feasbility study and determined it would take at least $7 million to endow it.
A fund-raising effort, though, never started, and the idea eventually fizzled. Six months later, Sandusky announced his retirement from coaching. He was just 55 years old at the time.
Sandusky said then he was retiring to devote more time to his passion, The Second Mile, an organization he founded in 1977 to help mentor underprivileged children and one reason he said he turned down opportunities to become a head coach at Maryland in 1991 and Virginia - after his PSU retirement - in 2000.
Meadors, reached this past week, recalls meeting with Sandusky, Paterno and PSU president Graham Spanier about the possibility.
"Jerry called me and asked if I would be interested in having a football team at Penn State-Altoona," Meadors wrote in an e-mail. "I said 'Sure, if we had a way to pay for it.' He mentioned that he knew a gentleman who might be willing to provide the necessary funds. We visited with the gentleman, but he never committed the money, and a football-team project never got off the ground."
Meadors could not recall the name of the businessman.
Meadors read last week's story about the allegations and was surprised by it.
In looking back, he said there was no indication Sandusky was being pushed off the main campus.
"Absolutely none," Meadors, now the president of Central Arkansas University, said. "It was a very positive meeting so if something was going on, everyone kept very professional."
Then as now, Fredina Ingold was Penn State Altoona's athletic director. She, too, was unaware of any issues that may have led to Sandusky's premature departure from the PSU coaching staff.
"I didn't have any sense of that," she said. Even still, she added, "we would not have been privy" to University Park police reports.
It may be that Sandusky was beginning to see the writing on the wall - that he knew he was not going to succeed Paterno and began looking for another avenue to coach without having to uproot his family or stray too far from The Second Mile.
The relationship between Sandusky and Paterno was frosty at that point. Prior to the 2000 season, Paterno took shots at Sandusky's defense and failed to stay at a banquet honoring him over Blue-White weekend. With 1100 people present, including many former players, Paterno made some brief remarks and left, saying he had a prior commitment.
Though the '98 allegation apparently lacked sufficient evidence, it may have left Paterno and the university to decide whether to terminate Sandusky - he coached two more seasons after it allegedly surfaced - or let him retire quietly.
And it may be that the university hierarchy, for several reasons, ultimately decided endorsing football at Penn State Altoona, perhaps with Sandusky, wasn't a good idea.
In the 1998 and 2009 cases, there have been no charges and, like many who have admired Sandusky over the years, I truly hope the allegations are unfounded.
Then again, if the allegations are proven or get worse, there will be no sympathy for Sandusky, and questions on whether Penn State - Spanier and Paterno - failed to act more decisively will be legitimate.
Either way, I remain curious about whether these dots connect and whether Sandusky's discussions with Penn State Altoona were predicated on the fact that he knew his days as a coach with the Nittany Lions were numbered.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.