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Giger: Paterno supporters believe he did do enough after alleged 2002 rape incident

Commentary

November 11, 2011
By Cory Giger, cgiger@altoonamirror.com , The Altoona Mirror

UNIVERSITY PARK -- Joe Paterno's involvement in Penn State's sex scandal is an incredibly divisive issue that has people taking strong stances on both sides.

Talking to numerous people on campus Thursday, it's clear there's very little gray area in their opinions.

One person said JoePa didn't do enough because he failed to notify the police when he found out about the alleged rape of a 10-year-old boy by Jerry Sandusky.

That statement set off another person, who vehemently pointed out Paterno did tell Gary Schultz, a university vice president who oversaw the campus police as part of his duties (see fact box to the right for Schultz's testimony confirming that).

That's where the argument heats up.

Whether Paterno telling Schultz really constitutes him notifying the police is up for individual interpretation.

Fact Box

From the grand jury presentment:

"Schultz testified that he was called to a meeting with Joe Paterno and Tim Curley, in which Paterno reported "disturbing" and "inappropriate" conduct in the shower by Sandusky upon a young boy, as reported to him by a student or graduate student."

I had this discussion repeatedly with numerous different groups of people near College Avenue throughout the afternoon. They were mostly students, with a few adults sprinkled in, and the students are the ones who seem to be the most passionate in their support of Paterno.

In every group there were people strongly saying that JoePa talking to Schultz does represent notifying the police. And other people strongly saying it doesn't.

This is a key point because, in the minds of many jurors in the court of public opinion, the vilification of Paterno begins with the notion that he didn't contact the proper authorities after Mike McQueary told him about the incident. (Exactly what McQueary told him is another issue).

One student, getting frustrated and in a raised voice, told me, "But he believed he did tell the police" because of Schultz's role.

A similar dynamic played out in every group, and out of about 30 people I spoke with, it was roughly a 60-40 split in support for Paterno. Those who showed support remained staunch in their opinion when told by dissenters that he should have continued to follow up to make sure Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley saw the process through.

Paterno didn't seem to have anywhere near a 60 percent approval rating around the country the past few days, with most people arguing he didn't follow through to make sure all the proper authorities were contacted. As a result, it appeared very few people outside of Happy Valley were surprised when he was fired Wednesday night.

Penn State students, however, seemed stunned at the news and took to the streets to riot.

Many of them likely were outraged that a legendary man who had done so much for the university had been fired -- over the phone, no less -- and they wanted to protest.

But in talking to the students Thursday and getting feedback on social media from many others, it's clear there was another reason they were so upset.

There was an overwhelming sense from many people who believed the media and the nation were making this entire scandal all about Paterno.

Not Sandusky, the real villain in this whole tragic mess.

They're right, too, at least with regards to the past couple of days. As scrutiny against Paterno grew Monday and Tuesday, the talking heads on TV were spending the vast majority of time criticizing him rather than Sandusky.

That's just the way the media works. We go after the biggest story, which usually includes the biggest name, and in this case that clearly was Paterno.

He was fired, and there was non-stop media coverage of it until Thursday morning. Then, as if right on cue with that story exhausted, the media focus shifted back to Sandusky and McQueary.

Which is exactly where it should remain.

Cory Giger is the host of "Sports Central" from 4 to 6 p.m. daily on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM. Reach him at 949-7031 or @CoryGiger on Twitter.

 
 
 

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