Sunday, November 13, 2011

A long history in Penn State child abuse case


"Until a few days ago, Jerry Sandusky's face smiled down on students from a mural in downtown State College, the home of Penn State University, where football players and coaches are treated like royalty.
On Wednesday, the creator of the mural painted over Sandusky. The former assistant football coach was charged a few days earlier with sexually abusing eight boys over more than a decade.
"I got an email yesterday from one of the victim's mothers saying simply, 'Michael, can you please take Sandusky off the mural,'" said Michael Pilato, a local painter who created the "Inspiration" mural in 2001.
It will not be so easy to wipe out the stain on Penn State's reputation from the alleged abuse and what critics see as a cover-up by university officials who were told that Sandusky was seen raping a young boy in a shower in 2002.
Sandusky, who played football at Penn State and then coached for 32 years at the school, has denied the charges and has been released on bail.
The case has drawn comparisons to the child abuse scandals that rocked the Catholic Church, whose top officials are also accused of covering up child abuse over decades.
In this tight-knit town where the university is everything, Sandusky was known as a church-going family man and a philanthropist. "Jerry was just held in very high regard. It's definitely a shock to hear something like this. This has kind of blindsided everyone in town. He was the definition of Penn State," said Nick Savereno, who grew up in the university town, attended Penn State and now owns a sandwich shop near campus.
That the alleged abuse continued even after university officials were alerted to specific allegations has raised questions about the power and influence of the football program and its coaches -- especially Joe Paterno, one of the most revered figures in American sports.
The football program at Penn State was so sacrosanct as to be almost untouchable. "We just had this empire all by itself, reporting to nobody," said one member of the university's board of trustees.
Pennsylvania State University used to be a sleepy engineering school, but it was turned into a national powerhouse with the money raised by its marquee football program. In 2008, the last year for which data is available, Penn State was one of the 20 largest recipients of federal research dollars in the country. It has fostered what is now the world's largest dues-paying alumni association. (...)"

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