"In hindsight, I wish I would have done more."
Those words sealed legendary coach Joe Paterno's fate in the eyes of the PSU Board of Trustees, the media, and the general public.
Of course, most who condemned him for that statement, only used the last part of the quote, because the beginning words, "in hindsight" provided the needed context. In other words, knowing what I know about Sandusky now.
It was a statement that Joe Paterno should have never made.
It seems obvious that he made the statement before anyone critically analyzed the grand jury presentment. Had his legal team or advisors put the presentment in chronological order, they would have seen that PSU's intervention in 2001 stopped Sandusky's abuse for a period of years. And they would have realized that there was much more to this story than an alleged "administrative failure" at PSU.
What Joe Couldn't DoHowever, those who still condemn Paterno for inaction or that call him "negligent," are undoubtedly unaware of not only the facts of the case, but how Paterno would be limited in what he could do under Pennsylvania's Child Protective Services Law, the Public Welfare Code, and his authority at PSU.
-- He was not allowed to know or learn the name of the potential victim.
-- He could not follow up with the child welfare agencies to check on the status of the case.
-- He had no control over Sandusky, who didn't work for him at the time.
-- He could not trump the decisions of his superiors (regardless of the public's misperceptions of his power).
-- He could not ban Jerry from the facilities (due to Sandusky's retirement agreement).
-- Calling the police only would have referred the matter back to the child welfare agencies (who weren't the least bit interested in investigating Jerry Sandusky - see 1998 case).
What Joe Should Have Done (i.e., What McQueary Should Have Done)If we fast forward 2001 to 2013 and we examine PSU's new policy on child abuse reporting, the bottom line is Joe Paterno should have done LESS, not more.
PSU Policy AD72, REPORTING SUSPECTED CHILD ABUSE, states:
How to make a report of suspected child abuse:
- If you suspect child abuse, immediately contact ChildLine, which is operated by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare at 1-800-932-0313. This hotline is staffed at all times of day and night. If the call is not answered, then immediately contact the county child welfare agency in the county in which the incident occurred. If you do not reach an individual either through ChildLine or through the local county child welfare office, the reporter must continue calling until they reach an individual to complete the reporting process. For the avoidance of doubt, regardless of the current age of the victim of suspected or reported abuse, a report should be made to ChildLine if abuse occurred.
- If a child is in immediate danger, the employee should contact police at 911 to obtain immediate protection for the child.
- Finally, if you are considered to be an Authorized Adult as defined in policy AD39, follow the reporting procedure as described in AD39.
When McQueary arrived at Joe's house to inform the coach of what he had seen, Paterno simply would have referred to the new policy and said, "Mike, here's the number you need to call."
The policy is quite clear and it is absolute folly to believe that an octogenarian (then septuagenarian) football coach should be calling in an uncertain, second-hand report of child abuse on behalf of a perfectly capable 38 year-old (then 26 year-old) man -- who allegedly was an eyewitness to the event.
If you see it, you report it. It's that simple. It's not a complex case at all.
The media is now in a frenzy over McQueary's newest revelations that he told Paterno about "molestations" and that they talked about it every few years. However, what the media really should be focused on is one of the few honest things Mike McQueary said on Monday....
… I'll point the finger at myself before anybody else."
And he would be absolutely correct under PSU's new policy.