Most of the news trucks have rolled out of State College. Joe Paterno's front yard is no longer filled with sympathetic placards. Jerry Sandusky's home draws only a few gawkers each day.
But heading into its third week, the Penn State scandal still blazes fiercely. Subplots, contradictions and new angles outpace even the most accelerated news cycle. Mike McQueary, the embattled Nittany Lions assistant, claims he did contact police in 2002, after allegedly seeing Sandusky raping a boy in the showers of the football facility, but police contend there's no evidence that he filed a report. Sandusky inexplicably agrees to an interview with Bob Costas and then offers something less than a full-throated defense against the hideous allegations against him. Meanwhile, media reports surface that Sandusky's attorney, Joe Amendola, was 48 when he impregnated a 16-year-old girl whom he would later marry. (Sixteen is the age of consent in Pennsylvania.) As ever, Jon Stewart was there to articulate a nation's outrage. "If you're accused of sex with minors—forcible sex—maybe your criteria for finding a defense lawyer shouldn't be 'also has issues with sexual boundaries.'"
Truth is, Amendola's hiring was very much in keeping with a scandal that from the start, has been characterized by troublesome personnel decisions, ironic coincidences and blatant conflicts of interest. Consider:
• In 2009 allegations of abuse by Sandusky were raised with Michael Madeira, then district attorney in Centre County. Madeira referred the matter to state prosecutors. Why? Because his wife, Lisa, is the biological sister of one of Sandusky's adopted sons.
November 28, 2011
• When Sandusky was arraigned on Nov. 5, District Judge Leslie A. Dutchcot freed the defendant on unsecured bail of $100,000, a surprisingly low figure given the severity of the charges. Last week Dutchcot was replaced after reports surfaced that not only had she been a volunteer at, and donor to, Sandusky's foundation, The Second Mile, but also that a member of the charity's board had raised money for her campaign.
• While he was Pennsylvania attorney general, Tom Corbett initiated the investigation against Sandusky in 2009. The following year Corbett was elected the state's governor and, with that, became an ex officio trustee of Penn State. Which is to say that he held a leadership position at the university—titular though it may have been—while knowing that his former office was busy preparing a case that would rock the school to its core.
• Days after the scandal broke, Penn State trustees trumpeted that the university would launch a "full and complete" internal investigation, headed by Kenneth C. Frazier, president and CEO of Merck and a PSU trustee. Before reaching the top position at Merck, Frazier, 56, was senior vice president and general counsel for most of its controversial Vioxx litigation. A series of lawsuits, beginning in 2002, alleged personal injuries from the use of the drug, and Merck eventually reached a settlement agreement in 26,600 cases, involving 47,000 plaintiff groups, for roughly $5 billion. However, in 2003, Merck's shareholders filed a class action suit contending that Merck knew that Vioxx doubled the risk of cardiovascular problems among users but did not disclose this to doctors or consumers. As Snigdha Prakash wrote in Slate last week, the Penn State probe into a possible cover-up "will be headed ... by a man with a track record of protecting powerful institutions from the consequences of their inaction."
• Perhaps the most puzzling personnel move of all was Penn State's decision to replace athletic director Tim Curley with orthopedic surgeon David Joyner. While some trustees insisted that the new football coach come from outside the Penn State family, Joyner, 61, could hardly be more of an insider. In addition to being a current member of the board of trustees, Joyner played on the offensive line under Paterno from 1969 through '71 and was team captain in his senior season. Two of his sons, Andy and Matt, played for Paterno in the '90s.
Last Friday, when Joyner was introduced as the acting AD, he stressed that his personal ties would not affect his actions, though he observed, "First of all, it's hard to find somebody who wasn't educated at Penn State."
Joyner has no experience as an athletic department administrator, but he was chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee's Sports Medicine Committee from 1993 to 2000 and oversaw the committee in charge of antidoping during a time that is remembered as being tainted by pervasive doping. In 2000, Dr. Wade Exum, then the USOC's director of drug control, resigned and alleged that the USOC had been covering up the positive drug tests of American athletes. During the '00 Sydney Olympics, Joyner went on CBS and defended the USOC against Exum's allegations while acknowledging that he had been told—a fact to which he later testified, court records corroborate—that a U.S. cycling coach had been let go for doping 17-year-old athletes without their knowledge. (The coach denied doping, and U.S. Cycling also denied that it was the reason for the coach's termination.) Also in '00, at a private meeting with USOC officials, Joyner said: "The only reason the USOC has a drug-control program is because of two [factors]," according to documents reviewed by SI, "public pressure and the [International Olympic Committee] requires it. All right?" Penn State did not respond to multiple requests to make Joyner available to discuss his work with the USOC.
"It seems like the people they're bringing in are from a pool they pretty much know," observes Matt Paknis, a leadership-development consultant who served as a Penn State football grad assistant in 1987 and '88. Paknis also coached at Brown and Rhode Island and says that neither program required the sort of blanket submissiveness to leadership that he saw at Penn State. "I don't see how there can be really effective change there unless you bring in completely new blood, clear out anybody who has an affiliation with [Paterno]."
Even as Penn State's faculty senate called on Friday for an independent review of the university's actions in the Sandusky case, and Frazier announced the appointment on Monday of former FBI chief Louis Freeh to head Penn State's internal investigation, and the NCAA announced that it would take up the question of institutional control in the Nittany Lions' football program, it was clear there's plenty more to be done. Rodney Erickson, who has stepped in as the school's president, is now tasked with beginning the reclamation project on a badly damaged institution. "Penn State is committed to transparency to the fullest extent possible," he wrote in a message to faculty, staff and students on Nov. 11. "I will ensure proper governance and oversight exists throughout the University, including Intercollegiate Athletics."
It is admirable sentiment. But with so many potential conflicts, one wonders, Is Penn State cleaning house? Or simply rearranging the furniture?
THEY SAID IT
"Just tell them I'm 0--10 as an assistant for Indianapolis."
PEYTON MANNING Injured Colts quarterback, commenting to his father, Archie, last week about suggestions that Peyton take over in 2012 for recently fired Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt.