It all reads like an overheated John Grisham novel: A trusted football hero and director of a respected child refuge center is charged with sexually assaulting eight young boys for over a 14 year period. An assistant coach who was an eye-witness to the anal rape of a ten year old boy and rather than trying to stop the crime, or even report it to the police, instead told his boss, a legendary head coach, who along with a university president and his athletic director, covered it up. A district attorney who mysteriously disappeared six years ago, his body never found, before he could bring charges against the child rapist. A rapist who also – if rumors turn out to have any basis in truth – pimped out children to other pedophiles. And, rather than outrage at such evil finally coming to light, in a town so inculcated in a culture where football is king and so fearful it might lose its meal-ticket, the student body riot in protest when the head coach is fired. In a state where congressmen can still nominate said disgraced coach for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, turning a blind eye to the corruption riddling his university team until they simply can’t.
Except it’s not a novel. This is Penn State.
When universities become so dependent on athletic departments for their very existence, to the point where nothing – nothing – seems vile or heinous or repugnant enough to shake that iron grip, then there is something desperately wrong with American universities. When any game becomes so powerful that football coaches can play God to entire towns, cover-ups this massive are blatant and where so many people knew and did nothing, when students riot after the filth lurking under rocks start to come out not in protest of the crime but in reaction to the loss of their beloved coach, then Penn State needs to be shut down.
Completely. Dismantled, not a brick left standing. Salt poured on the ground so nothing grows there again. This isn’t just a case of a single bad-apple, not just a small, isolated or one-off event. A man raped children while his friends deliberately covered up his crimes. For years. All in the name of protecting football. The extent of depravity metastasizing an entire town because of the power embedded in one university’s athletic department is on a scale hard to imagine, never mind stomach. The Penn State football program has lost the right to continue to exist.