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2012 Penn State University Football Team Scandal

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sports
Wordcount: 1996 words Published: 26th Feb 2019

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This was the scandal that woke up our nation to the sexual abuse and unethical conduct in our university system. Jerry Sandusky had been on the Penn State football coaching staff. Mr. Sandusky was the defensive coordinator for Joe Paterno for 30 plus years. Graham Spanier, Penn States president, Gary Schultz, Penn State’s vice president and Tim Curley the athletic director were all charged for perjury to a grand jury about the knowing of Mr. Sandusky’s sexual misconduct and not reporting the child abuse or sexual abuse to the proper authorities.” This paper will show what ethically went wrong with the people involved with the 2012 Penn State Football Program scandal that destroyed their football program.  

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The President of Penn State Mr. Spanier had been in charge for over 16 years before he was forced to resign in the year 2011. Mr. Spanier believed that Gary Schultz and Tim Curley followed all the proper rules and regulations during this sexual abuse scandal. Mr. Schultz had a extensive history at Penn State. Gary Schultz attained his bachelor’s along with his master’s degree from Penn State. Mr. Schultz started his career at Penn State in the year 1971 in which he had different admin duties in business operations, finance, and technology. The in 1995 he was appointed to the Vice President position. Mr. Schultz had decided to retire from the university then return in 2011 on a temporary basis until the university was able to hire someone for the position. The athletic director Tim Curley was at Penn State from 1993 until 2011. Joe Paterno was the head coach of the Penn State football team during the time of this scandal. Joe Paterno, was on the coaching staff of this football team for over half a century from 1966 to 2011. Jerry Sandusky is a convicted serial child molester, and was the assistant coach to Joe Paterno for more than 30 years which most of those years as a defensive coordinator. Through the 1970’s Mr. Sandusky had developed the nonprofit organization named The Second Mile. The Second Mile was to helped underprivileged children and their parents that are at risk in the state of Pennsylvania.

There were a few incidents that pointed the finger at Sandusky’s indecent behavior with young boys on the Penn State campus. There are incidents also off campus. I will focus on the incidents that happened at Penn State. In 1998 was the first incident. The Penn State police department along with the Pennsylvania Public Welfare investigated an incident where the mother of the 11year old boy had reported Mr. Sandusky took a with her son and may had sexual conduct with the young boy. After the investigation of Mr. Sandusky confessed of taking a shower in the nude with the young boy he made apology and all charges were dropped. There were two janitors that witnessed incidents on the same night in 2000. Fall of 2000 a janitor that worked at the university observed a man, which was identified as Mr. Sandusky, in the showers of the assistant coach’s locker in the Lasch Building with a child. Mr. Sandusky had the boy pinned to the wall and Mr. Sandusky was performing oral sex on the child. Then on the same night, a different janitor saw two pairs of feet in the same shower at the Lasch Building but he could not see the upper torso of the two people. The janitor waited for them to finish their shower, then he later saw Mr. Sandusky with a child, leave the locker room holding hands. The head janitor told that they told about what they witnessed. The other janitor advised the head janitor how he could report what he saw, if he wanted to do so. Everyone knows that the Penn State football, it is the heart of the University and the surrounding community. Joe Paterno is like Paul Bear Bryant to Alabama when it comes to Penn State Football. The ethical dilemma is that what these janitors faced should of been reported and the incidents they witnessed to their supervisors at the University to protect these children and to prevent any possible damage to the University. But instead these janitors did nothing to save their jobs. Which resulted in they decided not to report because they were scared of losing their jobs. Was this morally a good decision? No it wasn’t. What these janitors witnessed was wrong and they knew it was. I can understand that someone wouldn’t want to lose their job, but children being molested should’ve been at the top of the list. They felt too much pressure to do what was ethically right. Janitor B thought that Paterno had a lot of power and would get rid of whomever he had to in order to protect the program. Football runs through the veins of this college. Those connected with the program would do what they had to do to keep the reputation of the football program as well as the University squeaky clean.

There are a couple of ethical questions I have when I look at this scandal. The first one is what would make an ethical person make bad choices when they are facing an ethical dilemma? Why did Graham Spanier, Gary Schultz, Tim Curley, and Joe Paterno turn their back on Jerry Sandusky’s molestation of young boys at Penn State? The group of men mentioned all failed to protect children from a child predator, Jerry Sandusky. Here is an ethical dilemma that Spanier, Schultz, Curley, Paterno faced. Should they have taken legal action against Sandusky and possibly caused the University reputation to be smeared or should they have just talk to Sandusky and move on from this situation. They chose to just talk to Sandusky and just move on. This is ethically wrong because they were not looking out for the welfare of the children from the Second Mile that Sandusky brought to the Penn State campus. It’s obvious that Penn States big four leaders were more committed to making sure the University did not get any negative reporting instead of thinking of the safety of the children the university brought Mr. Sandusky to the campus and then he molested children. The big four covered up what Sandusky was doing to children. I feel that the Penn State police department also played a part in this scandal. I feel the Penn State police department should have gotten more involved including the FBI. If the other coaches and staff new about this why didn’t they do something. Joe Paterno is just as guilty as Mr. Sandusky because he knew that this was going on but did nothing. Why didn’t they charge Sandusky in 1998 when the child’s mother reported Sandusky showered with her son and had inappropriate contact with him? Sandusky apologized for his behavior and it was all dismissed. Which it should have never been dismissed. Mr. Sandusky should have gone straight to jail. Was football bigger than everything in Penn State? It seemed like the leaders of the University and the police department was more concerned with protecting the reputation of the University instead of prosecuting a child molester. 

In 1999 Sandusky retired from Penn State. However, he was still granted access to the same areas of the University even after his retirement. In 2002 there was another incident witnessed in which Sandusky had abused another boy. “On March 2, 2002, Mike McQuarrie tells football Coach Paterno that he saw Sandusky in the locker room shower the evening before, performing sex on a child to be 10 years old. On March 3, 2002, Coach Paterno reported the incident to Athletic Director Tim Curley, telling the graduate assistant had seen Sandusky doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy. “Tim Curley informed Schultz about what Paterno reported to him. The outcome was Sandusky had to turnover his keys and was no longer allowed to bring kids from his Second Mile foundation to the campus. This was not reported to the law enforcement. During this I really looked at Paterno. He was known to be a good guy, but in my opinion, he approving of Mr. Sandusky’s behavior by not taking action and reporting it. Since the year 1998 Coach Paterno knew that Mr. Sandusky was involved molesting children. What did he do when faced with this ethical dilemma, he looked the other way. Coach Paterno thought it was more important to protect the image of his football team and Penn State instead of taking matters in his own hands. Even though Sandusky retired he still was associated directly with Paterno on the campus. What should Paterno have done? I think that Paterno should have taken the actions of a whistle blower. “Serious harm raises moral intensity of an issue.” (Trevino & Nelson, 2011) These children were being seriously harmed and even when the leaders of the University were obviously covering up this situation. I feel Joe Paterno should have taken the necessary steps to let law enforcement know that Sandusky was still molesting young boys.

Spanier, Schultz, and Curley were all released from their duties at Penn State charged with covering up Sandusky’s abuse of young boys from his Second Mile foundation. Joe Paterno was dismissed from the Penn State Nittany Lions and later died from complications from a lung cancer treatment. If Joe Paterno was still alive he also would have faced charges for covering up Sandusky’s molestation of young boys. The Second Mile foundation is trying shutdown and transfer to another youth based ministry that will help underprivileged kids. Jerry Sandusky was sentenced to jail for 30 to 60 years for sex abuse of minors. Jerry Sandusky is 69 years old and after this sentence will spend the rest of his life in jail.

The 2012 Penn State Scandal involved the top leaders of Penn State University. There were a few incidents that pointed the finger at Jerry Sandusky for sexually molesting young boys from his Second Mile foundation. What would make an ethical person make bad choices when they are facing an ethical dilemma?  Why did Graham Spanier, Gary Schultz, Tim Curley, and Joe Paterno turn their back on Jerry Sandusky’s molestation of young boys at Penn State? Why didn’t the Penn State police pursue this further? These are few ethical questions about this scandal. Even after Sandusky retired from Penn State he was still allowed to have access he did when he was employed. Joe Paterno was also involved in this cover-up. All the top leaders were fired from their duties at Penn State. This scandal did ruin the reputation of this University in which the big four tried so hard to not let happen. It’s sad that they all did not make better ethical decisions.      


Penn state scandal: Timeline from November 2011 to July 2012. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/18/penn-state-timeline-nov-july_n_1682867.html

Schultz returns to fill interim senior vp post; nominations sought. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://news.psu.edu/story/156548/2011/07/29/schultz-returns-fill-interim-senior-vp-post-nominations-sought

A timeline of the Penn state child sex abuse scandal. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2011/11/16/justice/pennsylvania-coach-abuse-timeline

Paterno, others slammed in report for failing to protect Sandusky’s victims. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwoway/2012/07/12/156654260/was-there-a-coverup-report-on-penn-state-scandalmay-tell-us

Linda K. Trevino & Katherine A. Nelson, K. A. (2017). Managing Business Ethics. (7th ed.).


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