The legal charges and sexual abuse allegations against a former Penn State assistant football coach suggest, at least on the surface, a kind of classic “cover-up” on the school's part an effort to conceal the institution’s reputation and perceived integrity.
That it has taken this long for charges to be laid, again, is a concerning tale, to be sure. Many stories about the allegations are available, including this one by Michael Rosenberg at Sport's Illustrated.
It’s difficult for someone on the outside to write about this, because while there are many allegations, how does anyone on the outside truly know the “facts”.
What those of us interested in youth sports (and the lessons that adults "teach" and model) can do, though, is wonder why Penn State officials seemed so lackluster in handling the seriousness of the allegations that were apparently made many years ago.
Institutions seem to have a propensity for keeping things “in house”. And the school is not the first and likely won’t be the last institution or organization that handles things like this very poorly. But that is no excuse for inaction or looking the other way.
An accusation does not always mean that something terrible happened, of course. But my sense is, the more that is uncovered in the weeks to come, it will become clear that Penn State, as an institution of higher learning, likely failed to meet even minimum reporting standards for a case such as this and as importantly, failed miserably on ethical grounds.
We can’t always protect young people or young athletes. But surely those entrusted with caring for young students and young student-athletes on campus have a serious obligation to do their best. And if and when they can’t protect everyone, they certainly have an obligation to respond and investigate when serious questions are raised.
If this did not happen at Penn State, then many should indeed fall on their proverbial sword. Many people in Canada and the United States enjoy and support college athletics in one way or another. This kind of story, however, is a discouraging one and yet again suggests the undue emphasis on sports (and protecting those in and around big-time sports like football) too often outweighs almost everything else—including a sense of common decency.