Citing “multiple threats” against him, Penn State announced Thursday night that wide receivers coach Mike McQueary, who allegedly witnessed former Penn State assistant Jerry Sandusky raping a 10-year-old boy, won’t be coaching for Penn State on Saturday against Nebraska. Whether or not the school feared for his safety, McQueary should not have been at this game. For the Penn State Board of Trustees, one of the justifications for firing Joe Paterno was that, if he had coached Saturday’s game against Nebraska, a nation’s attention would be focused on a potential enabler of sexual abuse wandering the sideline, representing Penn State on a very public stage. The spectacle could have further damaged the reputation of the school. So removing him now was the sensible move.
According to the grand jury report in the case against Sandusky, who is charged with 40 counts relating to sexual abuse against a minor, in 2002 McQueary, then a graduate assistant coach at Penn State, looked into the showers of the Penn State football locker room, and saw Sandusky allegedly raping a 10-year-old boy. A stunned McQueary, a former Penn State quarterback who is now the team’s wide receivers coach, conferred with his father, and decided to inform Paterno about the incident (Paterno has said McQueary did not share the more graphic details; McQueary has not shared the details of his conversation with Paterno). McQueary, according to the report, then told two university administrators about the incident. Those administrators, Penn State athletic director Tim Curley, who is on administrative leave, and vice president for finance and business Gary Scultz, who resigned under pressure from the scandal, have both been charged with perjury and failing to report a sex abuse crime.
Like Paterno, McQueary filled his legal obligation. But doesn’t he have a moral obligation too? McQueary has not spoken publicly about the case, presumably due to the legal restrictions surrounding it. But according to the grand jury report, McQueary swore under oath that he witnessed a child rape by Sandusky. For the sake of argument, let’s say that in the moment of shock, McQueary thought he saw a crime that, in reality, was less severe. That doesn’t matter: in McQueary’s mind, he saw rape. Yet, for years after that alleged attack Sandusky, who founded a charity for at-risk boys, was still seen as a pillar of the Penn State community. After university administrators conferred, Sandusky was allegedly only banned from bringing children on campus. He reportedly abused again. If McQueary had called the cops earlier, he could have stopped it.
Until we hear from McQueary, this story could take a whole new direction. We might be missing something. The information in front of us tells us one thing: Mike McQueary testified to seeing an awful crime, and didn’t inform police authorities about it for years afterwards. How does someone justify, and cope with, such inaction? And how can Penn State justify keeping him on the payroll?