Looking at the world of college sports, and a casual observer may presume that the child rape scandal that enveloped Penn State University last winter has been settled. Jerry Sandusky is in jail for the rest of his life. Joe Paterno is dead. His statue no longer stands in front of Beaver Stadium. The NCAA placed crippling sanctions on the football program Paterno oversaw, and the football season is nearly two-thirds gone. Some semblance of normalcy–or at least a new normal–has returned to Happy Valley.
That casual observer would be wrong. Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly announced Thursday that the state was bringing charges against former Penn State president Graham Spanier, the man who oversaw, overlooked, and may have ignored the entire scandal. Spanier will face eight counts, five of them felonies: two for endangering the welfare of children, one for perjury, one for obstruction of justice, and three others for conspiracy. Former Penn State athletic director Timothy Curley and former university vice president Gary Schultz were also charged for endangerment and perjury, adding to the charges they had already received.
It’s all a stark reminder that Penn State’s very public shaming is far from complete.
“This was not a mistake, oversight or misjudgment,” Kelly said at a news conference Thursday. “This was a conspiracy by top officials at Penn State.”
The man who molested 10 young boys over a decade-long period during which he worked and was associated with Penn State is behind bars. But the men who the state of Pennsylvania believes played an extensive role in allowing Sandusky’s crimes to continue may yet join Sandusky there.
There are still facts of this case to be learned, information about how men in very high places failed, and what mechanisms or reporting requirements might have forced them to uphold their responsibilities. We will still learn about why that failure took place, how an entire institution of higher learning failed to protect the most vulnerable people on its campus and in its community. About why football was so important that it took precedence over the safety and welfare of children, about how the same failures can be prevented in the future.
Football, and some sense of normalcy, may be back at Penn State. The pain, the reckoning, and the education that will come from all of this, however, is far from over.