The serious charges lodged against former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky raise troubling questions about discussions in Altoona a dozen years ago.
In 1998, Penn State police and Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar investigated a parent's complaint that Sandusky, then Penn State's defensive coordinator, showered with her young son.
The case was probed for six weeks, but no charges were pressed.
Between late 1998 and early 1999, Sandusky and Joe Paterno met with Penn State President Graham Spanier and Allen Meadors, then Penn State Altoona's chief executive officer, about the possibility of starting a football program here - with the idea that Sandusky would be the head coach.
"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."
Paterno was all for it. He told Meadors, "It was time for football at Altoona."
In the Mirror story, Paterno said he believed "eventually, a lot of our branch campuses will have football."
The university sanctioned a feasibility study and determined it would take at least $7 million to endow it.
A fundraising effort never started, and the idea eventually fizzled.
Now, in the continuing aftermath of the horrendous story of Sandusky being charged with 40 counts of sexual abuse of eight boys, leading to the firing of Paterno and Spanier - we cannot stop thinking of the out-of-the-blue idea to start football at Penn State Altoona.
And we are left wondering whether it was really part of a plot to get Sandusky off the PSU coaching staff and provide him with a soft landing 45 minutes from his home in State College and The Second Mile, his charity for challenged youth.
According to the reports that have surfaced since the allegations broke, Sandusky was told by Paterno in May 1999 that he was not a candidate to become Penn State's next head coach.
Two months later, Sandusky surprisingly announced his retirement, effective at the end of the 1999 season.
It's not like Penn State Altoona had a history of football and was looking for a new coach. This concept was conceived to launch a program from the ground up.
Asked if he got the impression Penn State was trying to push Sandusky off its campus, Meadors told the Mirror last April, "absolutely none."
"It was a very positive meeting so if something was going on, everyone kept very professional," he said.
The attorney general's 23-page grand jury report, gleaned from 18 months' worth of interviews, claims Sandusky allegedly sexually abused boys between 1994 and 2009.
Penn State has now launched an internal investigation with former FBI director Louis Freeh in charge. Freeh said his investigation will go back as far as 1975.
It is unclear in the grand jury presentment how much Paterno knew about the 1998 case. Spanier told the grand jury he didn't know about it.
That's hard to believe.
But if it's true, then a don't-ask-don't-tell mentality contributed to Penn State's cloud of secrecy that has brought us here today.
We feel for Sandusky's alleged victims, and we hope justice is served.
But we're also very troubled that Penn State Altoona - part of the university's family - may have been perceived as a safe haven for someone who has since been charged with such sickening crimes.