About Wanderings

Each week I will post my current syndicated newspaper column that focuses upon social issues, the media, pop culture and whatever might be interesting that week. During the week, I'll also post comments (a few words to a few paragraphs) about issues in the news. These are informal postings. Check out http://www.facebook.com/walterbrasch And, please go to http://www.greeleyandstone.com/ to learn about my latest book.



Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sanctimonious Hypocrites Can’t Diminish the Warmth for Joe Paterno



            Gov. Tom Corbett (R-Pa.) praised Joe Paterno and ordered flags on all state buildings to fly at half-staff for four days.
            That would be the same Tom Corbett who had said he was “personally disappointed” in Joe Paterno for not doing more to alert authorities in the Jerry Sandusky case, while acknowledging that Paterno did nothing illegal and followed university rules for conduct.
            That would be the same Tom Corbett who, as attorney general, assigned only one investigator to the case in 2009, while devoting almost innumerable personnel and financial resources to prosecute high-profile cases that could help lead him to the governor’s office.
            That would be the same Tom Corbett who had the authority to order the arrest of Jerry Sandusky as soon as the claims were made, but who allowed the investigation to drag two years.
            That would be the same Tom Corbett who stepped up the investigation only in the third year, after he was elected governor.
            That would be the same Tom Corbett who accepted about $200,000 in campaign donations from trustees of Sandusky’s Second Mile foundation and then danced around questions of why, as governor, he authorized a $3 million grant to the Second Mile.
            That would be the same Tom Corbett who as an ex-officio member of the Penn State Board of Trustees, with the power to increase or decrease state appropriations to the university, big-footed his presence to demand that the Trustees do something to Joe Paterno.
            Now, let’s look at the Board of Trustees. On Jan. 22, the day that Joe Paterno died from lung cancer, the Board issued a honey-dripped PR-laden written commemoration.
            That, of course, would be the same Board that, influenced by the harpies of the media and a horde of the public who knew everything about everything, except people and football, had wanted to terminate Joe Paterno’s contract after his teams had losing seasons in 2003 and 2004. He was too old, they said. He was getting senile, they claimed. His coaching strategy was too conservative, they declared with the shrill cry of a wounded hyena. But, an 11-1 season in 2005 quieted their panic. And so they stewed, knowing that a football coach, educator, philanthropist, and humanitarian had a greater reputation than all of them combined.
            That would be the same Board that violated every expectation of due process, listened to the other sanctimonious hypocrites who were quick to condemn someone without knowing the facts, and by a cowardly and impersonal phone call violated four levels of the chain of command and fired Joe Paterno hours after he had announced his retirement. It was their pathetic way to make people believe they, not the most recognizable person in Penn State history, were in control. The reality, of course, is they botched the firing in a feeble attempt to protect themselves, not Penn State and, certainly, not the rights of a tenured full professor, who had given 61 years of service to the university.
            That, of course, would be the same Board that should have known for at least six months, and probably longer, of a grand jury investigation into Jerry Sandusky’s conduct, but apparently had no crisis management plan to deal with what would become the greatest scandal in its 156-year history.
            That, of course, would be the same Board that had operated in a culture of secrecy that regularly violated the state’s Sunshine law and enjoyed its status as receiving state tax moneys while not having to be under the glare of the public right-to-know law.
            That, of course, would be the same board that includes the CEOs of U.S. Steel, Merck, and a major division of the Bank of New York Mellon; and an assortment of senior executives from insurance, investment, and education. Even a retired assistant managing editor of The New York Times is on the Board. And, yet, this Gang of 32, which should have known better, bumbled, stumbled, and proved that malfeasance and incompetence is what it should be best known for. For the most part, they acted like undergraduates struggling to earn a grade of “C” in a course in human relations, having already decided they didn’t need the course in business communications.
            Based upon unsubstantiated puffed-up statements by the governor, the Board of Trustees, and a hyper-inflated mass media trapped in a 24/7 news cycle, a cowardly pair of U.S. senators, Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), withdrew their nominations to award Joe Paterno the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Big 10 removed the Paterno name from the Amos Alonzo Stagg–Joe Paterno championship trophy.
            Now, let’s turn to the new president. The Board forced the resignation of a respected 17-year president for not doing enough to investigate the Sandusky allegations. By most accounts, the new president, formerly the provost and executive vice-president, is a decent person with a good academic reputation. But, is it credible that if the No. 1 person should have known more and done more, how could the No. 2 person be ignorant of the allegations? Nevertheless, the Board sent the newly-minted president out on nothing less than a belated PR field trip to calm the rising storm against the Board for its incompetence and insensitivity in firing Joe Paterno. At three meetings with hundreds of alumni, the new president, facing alumni wrath, did little to alleviate their anger. But, he promised the university would do something—he didn’t know what—he didn’t know how or when—to honor Joe Paterno.
            Of course, since the Board was so inept, secret, and hypocritical in its own actions, it had no idea what it was going to do. The Board statement the day of Joe Paterno’s death merely stated the university “plans to honor him,” and is considering “appropriate ways.”
            The greatest honor will not come from the Board, the administration, or even the Legislature, many of whom sought the media spotlight to pander to certain voters by condemning the coach. At the statue by Beaver Stadium, thousands of students, staff, faculty, and community residents are coming to pay their respects. Hundreds had met him, for he was one of the more accessible persons in the community, often walking home alone from practices and games; his phone number was in the book; his home was in a quiet residential area not a mansion on a hill reserved for the wealthy. Most of the mourners had never met him, but they all knew him.
            On Tuesday, about 27,000 people from all over the United States stood in line up to three hours to walk past the body of Joe Paterno, guarded by past and present scholar-athletes. NFL super-stars and football fans, academics and those who never went to college, all were there to honor the man who was an outstanding quarterback and cornerback who earned an English literature degree from Brown University, one of the more prestigious in the country; a man who later created the “Grand Experiment” to develop and promote a winning football program that would make education and citizenship more important than sports, and would make “success with honor” more than words.
            On Wednesday, thousands stood shoulder to shoulder and lined the streets of Penn State and State College, an honor guard as the hearse carrying Joe Paterno slowly moved from the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center, past Beaver Stadium, and to a private funeral. On Thursday, more than 12,000 packed the Bryce Jordan Center for a memorial service. The first 10,000 tickets were claimed within 10 minutes on Tuesday.
            Sue Paterno need not have worried when she quietly asked some mourners to keep her husband warm. When journalism turns into history, it will be written that Joe Paterno had done more than was expected, in every part of his life. The people, not the governor or the trustees who will quickly be forgotten in the cold, will keep Joe Paterno warm.  
[Dr. Walter Brasch is an award-winning journalist, former tenured full professor, and author of 17 books. His current one is Before the First Snow: Tales from the Revolution.]

55 comments:

  1. What an excellent article. You said everything I've been thinking.

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  2. This is a great summation of the current situation at Penn State University. As a graduate of PSU I would hope this article would reach the public's eye. Perhaps someone could publish this for all of our benefit. Surely the BOT must realize their time has run out and the longer they try to hold onto their power the more evil they will appear to be. Let us all make certain Tom Corbitt is run out of office as soon as possible. Another stake in the heart of the Republican 1%.

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  3. Thank you for your excellent article. It certainly presented the major reasons for the dismissal of the current BOT and the recall (that would be a dreamy outcome) of Corbett. Why is Corbett not getting more attention regarding all the facts you presented?
    Wish your writing would be publish in our major media outlets.

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  4. Thank you for this excellent piece of writing. You have put into words the feelings of thousands of Penn State alumni and fans around the world. I can only hope that the truth will be known.

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  5. A beautiful testament to a great man gracefully written. Thank you Dr.Brasch.

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  6. Not surprising that so many others "get it" involving people like Corbett and the board of trustees regarding "what did they know about Sandusky, and when did they know it?" When the truth is finally written, many people in positions of responsibility and authority far greater than Joe Paterno will be found to NOT have acted or been more diligent in what they knew and when they knew about Sandusky.

    I have asked the same questions about the board's and Corbett's knowledge about Sandusky from the very beginning. They were in a position to know long before Sandusky was arrested Nov. 5th. If they did know, they are 1,000 times more culpable than Paterno and are guilty of gross negligence and aiding and abetting a felon. If they didn't know, they are guilty of gross incompetence and malfeasance.

    Rest assured, They DID know and shamelessly used Joe to sully his reputation and cover their own failures to deal with the Sandusky issue effectively. That other "responsible" people like PA AG Linda Kelly and PA State Police Commissioner aided Corbett and the board in their lies speaks to the unsuitability of PA law enforcement to properly investigate and prosecute these crimes, since they are so willing to give many other responsible parties in the Sandusky mess a pass for their questionable moral and legal behavior.

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    1. I didn't mention the AG or the PSP commissioner in the article, because I needed to focus upon both the BoT and the Gov. (The article could have been twice as long). But, you are absolutely right. Both should have known better. While an AG is a politically-elected office, the commissioner of the PSP should have NOT made ANY statement--his job is to ivestigate and enforce. When that job becomes political, he loses credibility--as is the case now. Thank you for the comment.

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  7. A beautiful and factual piece to be sure. Thank you so much! How can we help to get this into major media?

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  8. Walter
    Can't believe I met a sane writer. You are right on.The following is also true.
    The politically correct police always determine guilt by accusation or association, and then require that you suffer the consequences regardless of a final adjudication of guilt or innocence. Take Arthur Andersen, which was driven to bankruptsy over the Enron case--only to be determined innocent of all charges 6 years later

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  9. Thank you, thank you, thank you. This is exactly what so many of us have been saying and feeling for the past three months. Excellent!

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  10. I still think that if victim #1 would have done more and stood fast to be heard with his mother along side, there would not have been a victom #2. So don't blame Joe for what could and should have been hearsay evidence, for he reported what he was told. Your words could not have had more meaning so everyone could have understood the truth.

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    1. So...blame the victim? A young boy who was abused in ways most of us could never bring ourselves to talk about, much less "stand fast" in the face of many adults much more powerful? No! Joe Paterno was obviously a great man in many respects as evidenced by all who loved him. But this is not an all or nothing game. Individuals make mistakes and even great individuals are sometimes wrong. In this case Paterno was certainly used as a scapegoat for those trying to avoid their own trouble. But there is a tragedy here that should be recognized regardless of the great people involved. There were many who did too little to speak up for those who were most weak and vulnerable. I think it is possible to honor someone and still recognize this fact. I sincerely hope that this is not forgotten for if so then this will be the real tragedy.

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    2. I agree. We must NEVER blame the children. Abuse is never, ever their fault.

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    3. Supporting Joe and abhoring child abuse are not mutually exclusive.

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    4. recognizing the wonderful things Paterno did in his life and the mistake that he made are also not mutually exclusive.

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    5. You be a child that was sexually abused and try talking about it when you feel such shame.I don't think Joe tried to keep a dirty little secret,I think he did what he was supposed to do and all the higher ups screwed up...ROYALLY.JOE was not the kind of man who would purposely play stupid if a child was being harmed.That wasn't who he was!!!

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    6. Mike McQueary & Joe Paterno were the only ones who DID do something. I have children and if one of them was abused I would blame only two people: myself & the perpetrator. Period. It is MY responsibility to keep my children safe. My children @9-11yo would never be anywhere alone with any man at 9pm at night or sleeping at his house. Never. Never. Never. I would never put my child in that situation. And please do not play the "underprivileged card" that is victimizing the parents of those children. No child should be alone with or sleeping at a quasi-stranger's house regardless of your socioeconomic status.

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  11. Great article.

    I met this man at his first Penn State press day in the fall of 1966. He gave a Penn State freshman journalism student his first "big time" interview on the grass of Beaver Stadium and I've never forgotten his patience as this freshman stumbled to ask the questions he had rehearsed in his mind for days. I'll never forget how he pushed back long-time newspaper and electronic media veterans to allow this freshman time to jot down every word the new coach had spoken. He was gracious, patient and warm. And he never changed.

    You will not be forgotten, Coach.

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  12. Thanks so much for this post. I will not be satisfied until the university issues a public apology to the Paterno family for how it handled this situation. I would also call for an investigation into Gov. Corbett for his actions and pressuring the board to act the way he wanted them to act. No discussion was offered, only an immediate decision to terminate. I hope history rewrites what so many media vultures have misinformed.

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  13. Your post only reiterates what my husband and I have been saying all along.... "Why weren't they prepared for this to come down?" Their actions were actions of those who panicked with no thought of what was right. They did wrong by Joe Paterno, but once again he showed them how to do it the right way.

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  14. Dear Walt- Great sentiment and accurate as well. Thanks for reflecting on what we are all thinking in an eloquent fashion. After watching the tribute to Joe today, I feel that the Penn State nation is united in it's view and that Joe's place in history is secure. While we may stand alone against the media, naysayers, and self-righteous hypocrites, we do stand together. The outsiders have no clue as to the impact that Joe has had on the university and everyone associated with it. I feel sorry for their ignorance and sad for them as well. They will never know that they were in the prescence of one of the great men of all time.

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  15. I am inpressed and gratified with your total assessment of the most debacle in the history of our nation.
    I am blessed that with most of the knowledge you wrote,daily have bestowed the members of our NLC with this information and to be used in confidance, hoping the details known be the ammunition needed to remove and release to clean out the BOT, and anyone involved with their secret meetings.
    What also turned me off because of little power to change what I was seeing and hearing the goings on, was no respect nor positive feelings to retain Tom Bradley on the new staff. That gentleman and friend gave me tears from the heart break he was having on national television, and will always attach the sentence he stated "Joe was my second father and I will miss him", while fighting hard to retain his composure.
    Again, thank you for allowing me to read your letter which I agree, matches what most Penn Staters knew all along. Little comfort it may be to us, but carries much more in recalling Joe Paterno and his immense contributions to all, forever.

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  16. I think child abuse, especially of the sexual predator kind, is the most heinous of crimes. The coach who witnessed it and Joe were derelict if they did call the police within 30 minutes of reporting it to higher authority and did not see cops cars screaming in(the same goes for the higher authorities). By not doing so they enabled Sandusky to continue raping youngsters for years. They could have stopped it right there. Ask yourself: If a subordinate came to me and said he saw a middle aged man naked in the shower with a 10 year old and heard "slapping" noises (there are reports he saw him pressing against the boys backside), would you report then forget it? Shame on all of them.

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    1. Joe didn't get details and both he nd McQueary have stated that. By law, yes LAW, Joe Paterno followed it to the letter. The people he reported it to, the ones responsible to do something, the ones charged with perjury did nothing. Even if Joe called police, they would not be screaming to the scene within minutes like you state. Hindsight heroes are evident with this kind of talk. The law was followed up until the AD and Chief of Police failed. Where is the outrage against them? In a society where people violate the law all the time and get excused or ignored, the ONE person who followed the LAW gets all the blame. What a twisted society we have become.

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    2. Was Joe supposed to call 911? Forgetting for a second that he did exactly what PA law requires in reporting suspected child abuse, exactly how would that have helped? Here's the call you want Joe to have made: "Hello, 911? Joe Paterno here. One of my graduate assistants came to me this morning and told me he saw a grown man in the shower with a young boy, and it appeared to be sexual in nature. When? Oh, yesterday. Who was the man? Jerry Sandusky. Who was the boy? Oh, I have no idea. My GA didn't know the boy. No, he didn't do anything, he just went home and told his father what he saw. He seems really upset. Can you come screaming to the scene, please, and take care of it?" And you really think the police would have done anything other than talk to Jerry Sandusky and Mike McQueary? Really? The people who could have stopped Sandusky could have done so in 1998 but failed to do so, despite having taped conversations between Sandusky and the mother of a victim. They had actual knowledge. Joe Paterno had no such thing.

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  17. Thank you for so eloquently saying what so many, many alumni (and I am sure non alumni) feel. All I can add is that every single PSU alumni should make sure they receive a ballot for the upcoming BOT vote. It would be a testament to JoePa if everyone of the alumni elected officials were voted OFF.

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  18. I don't think the Paterno Family would do this, but... Is there some way that legitimate civil suits could be brought to court under the premise of "verbal abuse", "verbal assault" (w/ or w/o intent to kill), or slander?

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    1. I am not a lawyer, but I do think that there may have been a wrongful termination possibility here. It is harder because there is no union at PennState, which operates as a private university--except when it wants public money. I'm not sure the Paterno family would sue, but it would be interesting to see how the BoT closes ranks on this one. There are possibilities to sue for slander/defamation (verbal); and libel/defamation (written). But, since Joe Paterno was a "public figure" under the law, a civil suit would have to prove the words were malicious in intent, and that the members of the Board who spoke out knew the words were false. (This is a very rough summation of a very complex issue.)

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  19. One of the best articles I've read. Thank you!

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  20. This incident will leave a mark on Mr.Paterno's otherwise great record.Mr.Paterno was arguable the most powerful man in the state of PA.He did what he was legally required to do and no more.After he reported the incident to "his superiors" and nothing was done about it he had the moral responsibility to follow up.All it would have taken was 15 minutes and one phone call.There is no doubt in my mind that if Mr Paterno had known the boy in the shower he would have done more.

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    1. Joe Paterno could neither legally nor morally follow up. There are protocols that have to be followed when reporting suspected abuse which is what is was at the time because he didn't witness it. Once reported to the proper authorities it is their job to take it further. Confidentiality laws prevent the reporter from being able to follow up and would have prevented the school from telling him what was being done. So how was Joe Paterno to know if his superiors had done their job or not? Since PSU is a highly regarded instute I imagine he had every confidence they had and the allegations had been unfounded. If Mike McQueary had given him all of the details instead of saying "it looked inappropriate" then maybe he would have questioned the fact that absolutely nothing was done. So while you stand in judgement of his actions, remember to gather all of the facts first.

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    2. Joe was not even close to being the most powerful man inPA. He was the football coach that did great things with his teams and for the university outside of football. To take his affection for moving PSU forward and for molding the young people he encountered into responsible adults and make it seems like he wielded some super power is beyond ridiculous.

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  21. To Anonymous Jan 27,
    Joe Paterno is the only one who has publicly stated "in hindsight, I wish I would have done more" He recognized that fact. I am not a cynical person and believe this to be an honest statement. I also realize that people want justice and justice should be served, but there is also "due process". And perhaps, through all of this people will take a deeper look at themselves and do what they say, "they would have done more".

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    1. Unfortunately, too many people took that quote, chopped it up, and turned it into "I wish I had done more", thus turning Joe into this villain who aided in the abuse. It makes me so angry!

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    2. Um, no, he said "With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more." Here's an English comprehension lesson: "With the benefit of hindsight" means "had I known then what I DID NOT KNOW THEN but know now". That's different from "in hindsight," which simply means he thought he should have done more. He did all that he could given what he knew, given that he was not an eyewitness, and given that even McQueary isn't clear on exactly what he told Joe.

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    3. I agree 100%. With the benefit of hindsight, we all wish we had done more!! Joe did EXACTLY what he should have done under the circumstances. I am the mother of 9 & 11 year old boys. This case hits home for me.

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    4. With the benefit of hindsight, we all wish we had done more. It makes me crazy how the press lynched such a great, extraordinary man. As the mother of 9 & 11 year old boys, there has not been one single doubt in my mind that Joe Paterno did exactly the right thing in a timely manner. I'm sure that I feel that way since I was focusing on the facts (the grand jury report)and not the newspapers. Everyone forgets that news is a business. Creating the PERCEPTION that Joe Paterno fell from grace sells a lot of newspapers. Shame on them.

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  22. Thank you for having the guts to say what no other media outlets seem to be able to--that the controversy here lies not with Joe Paterno, but with PA politics of the highest order. I am so glad I came across this article, it touches on every aspect of this situation from the TRUTHFUL point-of-view. I am passing this around to everybody I know. Well done, Mr. Brasch, and THANK YOU AGAIN for writing this!

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  23. Thank You for a wonderful, factual article!!! I wish everyone could read this!!!!

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  24. thanks for writing the truth

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  25. 'Joe Paterno was Pennsylvania's Coach, and we owed him, in his final days, our debt of gratitude, not a death of instant scandal and ruin'

    'JoePa' takes the fall

    http://www.yardbird.com/joe_paterno_takes_the_fall.htm

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  26. Thanks for putting together the right thoughts and the right words.

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  27. Thank you so much. He took a village and grew a town. We are....Penn State
    ekimdarb@q.com ( class of 71)

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  28. Thank you for this article. I am grateful to know that someone is searching for the truth. Please continue to keep us informed.

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  29. Walt, I hope you, at least, are looking into whether Corbett was involved in Gricar's "disappearance".
    And also whether Corbett ordered the State Police Commissioner to mouth the words to the national press "Joe Paterno failed his moral obligation".
    That set off the incendiaries, while hypocritically knowing full well that the State College Police, and probably the State Police, and certainly AG Corbett, knew of Sandusky's "tendencies" nearly 5 years prior to Paterno finding it out.
    IMO, Corbett is into this up to his ears.

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    1. I am not looking into the Gricar mystery. I don't have t he resources or the time. It may or may not be related. But until the investuigators (who have given up the search, I believe) get evidence, we probably won't know. The PSP commissioner direc tly worked for Tom Corbett, and was promoted by Corbett, so it's possible he was just (as you state) mouthing the feelings of Corbett. I don't know if he was ordered to do so--probnably just agreeing with his boss. Corbett, indeed, is "into this up to his ears."

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  30. Mr Brasch ... thank you for such an excellent piece of journalism. The coverage of this debacle here in the southwest has been limited to the prattle of the ESPN and network"reporters", and we all know how fair and journalistic that has been. As a teacher I have had to answer all sorts of questions from students about my alma mater, Joe Pa, and why I keep a Penn State pennant on the wall above my desk. I will use your article and the comments to show why I am proud to be a Nittany Lion, and why Joe Pa earned the respect of the real members of the Penn State family; NOT the BOT. Again, thank you! WE ARE ...

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  31. Everyone in the United States would benefit from adopting the example of Joe Paterno when it comes to honor, ethics and honesty. For the rest of my life, when faced with a difficult situation, I will ask myself: "What would Joe Pa do?"

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  32. Some truly nice stuff on this site, I love it.

    My blog; super Beta prostate

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