The entire Penn State/Jerry Sandusky scandal is sickening in every way, but any time phrases like "could have prevented" get thrown around makes the whole thing especially horrifying, and ESPN's Don Van Natta Jr. has uncovered one of those very stories, dropping a bombshell tonight that in 2004, then-Penn State president Graham Spanier, given the chance to allow a full Board of Trustees vote that would've given them greater authority over he and Paterno, passed on allowing such a vote to happen. Instead, as Van Natta puts it in his report, justice was irrevocably delayed and at least four boys were subsequently molested by Sandusky in the ensuing years that the Penn State leadership chose to do nothing.
The weirdest thing about the revelation, beyond the fact that it was never brought to a vote eight years ago, is that it wasn't included in the Freeh Report. Here's how Van Natta lays it out:
Two trustees said Freeh's investigators had asked them and other trustees about the 2004 good-governance proposal and appeared determined to find out why it had not been adopted. One trustee also said Freeh's investigators told them they had obtained emails between Spanier and Baldwin and others discussing the merits of the trustees' proposal. The trustee also said Freeh's investigators said that the emails showed "Spanier and Baldwin put a stop" to the good-governance proposal. "They didn't want the added scrutiny," the trustee said.
"It was a big, missed opportunity," said Al Clemens, another longtime trustee. "Back in 2004, we just knew there wasn't enough accountability, and it seemed like a reasonable step to try to protect the university. It seemed like the right thing to do."
After the good-governance proposal was discussed in a private board session in 2004, at least four young boys were sexually abused by Sandusky. Two trustees who spoke on condition of anonymity said they fear the board's failure to adopt the good-governance proposal will be used by victims' lawyers in the negligence lawsuits against Penn State.
"This could increase our liability," a current trustee said, "possibly by millions."
Smart one, that "current trustee."
Oddly, none of this is mentioned or even hinted at in the Freeh Report, and no one has any good explanation at the moment. Van Natta received no comment from the Freeh folks, and who knows if anything will become clearer in the coming days. But in case you thought the shitstorm that's descended upon Penn State was anywhere close to blowing out of town, think again.