Why should we care about this incident? Tragically, children are sexually abused every day, and heaven knows it’s not news for college sports to be a breeding ground for illegal activity. But it is rare to see the institutional decay so clearly and at such high levels as we do in this report.
Do we believe Penn State is the only school where a university president would allow heinous crimes to continue in order to avoid bad press? Is Penn State the aberration, or the school that got caught?
Certainly, in releasing the report, the Board of Trustees took a courageous step towards pouring some bleach on the mold. And the majority of youth sports programs and the adults who lead them take their duties as guides and role models seriously.
We should note this story because it hurts us all when we realize the emperor has no clothes. It doesn’t matter if the scandal is an aberration or not — we should note it points out how close we all can be to moral failure. We should care because Penn State and the almost saintly Joe Paterno were so high in the college sports stratosphere they were almost “too big to fail.” And we should care when institutions are no longer accountable for their actions or mismanagement.
Hopefully the Freeh report will bring about some needed changes both at Penn State and in youth football as a whole. But whether it does or not, it’s a fascinating and very candid look at an institutional cover-up.