When Morality Bows Down to Sport and Cash ; an Alleged Sexual Scandal Involving a US University Football Coach Is Causing a Stir -- for the Wrong Reasons

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[broken bar] T MAKES a big difference how you tell a story like this. Here's how it comes across in the report of the grand jury investigating Jerry Sandusky, a former football coach at Penn State University -- a report that has caused widespread horror in the world of American football and led to the sacking on Wednesday of a legendary coach and the president of the university, and to a night of rioting by the students.

Late one evening in March 2002 a graduate assistant, now identified as the then 28-year-old Mike McQueary, went to the locker room of the football building to put away some new sneakers, and was surprised to find lights on and a shower running. The report says: "He then heard rhythmic slapping sounds. He believed the sounds to be those of sexual activity. As the graduate assistant put the sneakers in his locker, he looked into the shower.

"He saw a naked boy, Victim 2, whose age he estimated to be 10 years old, with his hands up against the wall, being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Sandusky. The graduate was shocked but noticed that both Victim 2 and Sandusky saw him. The graduate assistant left immediately, distraught."

McQueary went to his office and called his father, who told him to come home. Father and son later decided that McQueary's duty was to report what he had seen to the head football coach of Penn State, Joe Paterno. This he did the next day. Paterno testified to the grand jury that, when he did so, McQueary was "very upset". But Paterno also claims that he did not understand the nature of the inappropriate activity in the shower room, and it was only when he read the grand jury report this week that he realised that this would have been a case of anal rape.

I say "would have been" because, though the evidence submitted to a grand jury is given on pain of perjury, none of it has yet been contested by Sandusky's defence, or put before a jury proper. What we are reading in the report is the basis for a future prosecution, in which Sandusky is likely to plead innocent.

Nevertheless, supposing the allegations to be true, one thing has struck most of the commentators: it never seems to have occurred to McQueary, if Victim 2 (of the eight boys listed in the report) was being raped, to go to his aid. Nobody looked for him.

Nobody thought of getting a doctor to examine him. Nor has anyone so far put a name to Victim 2, whose identity to this day remains unknown to the grand jury.

Paterno passed on McQueary's information to two senior university colleagues, who investigated but never involved the university police. What was understood by the young man to be sexual intercourse -- the rhythmic slapping sounds, the hands spread against the shower wall -- turned, over the weeks, into a case of fondling or horsing around. For horseplay in the shower, Sandusky had his keys to the university locker room taken away, and the case was reported to The Second Mile, a foster home that he had helped to found, where he continued to work with boys until, in 2008, an alert mother encouraged her son (Victim 1) to speak up to his school authorities. …