Jerry Sandusky And The Culture Of Secrecy At Penn State

Illustration for article titled Jerry Sandusky And The Culture Of Secrecy At Penn State

The late Myron Cope is best known for being the colorful radio voice of the Pittsburgh Steelers. But in his younger days, he made a name for himself as a reporter and writer for the Saturday Evening Post and Sports Illustrated, including this widely acclaimed 1967 profile of Howard Cosell. Even as Cope morphed into something of a cartoon character in his later years, he still had a reporter's instinct, which he continued to utilize in his work as a Pittsburgh radio show host. In his 2002 memoir, Double Yoi!, Cope drew on much from his reporting days, including his relationship with Joe Paterno, which he described as a friendly one. But he also shared an observation that seems pertinent in light of the Jerry Sandusky allegations and Penn State's apparent cover-up:

I particularly irritated Penn Staters by accusing Joe [Paterno] of excessive piety. You see, for many years he seemed bent upon casting Penn State as an academic facsimile of Harvard and his football players as model citizens (when in fact some of them told me they received the benefits of rural isolation—no major newspaper there to snoop—and a friendly police force).


Cope died three years ago, so he won't be the one to tell what else the friendly police may have done for Penn State's program. But he's not the only observer to conclude that Penn State, despite all the hosannas about what a clean program it has been, functioned within a bubble that protected it from outside scrutiny. In recent years, there was plenty of shock and awe when Penn State players began getting into trouble that, in the age of the Internet, could not be avoided in the way it might have been before. And this weekend's revelations have brought forth indications of other incidents that have been rumored or perhaps known by reporters, but, for one reason or another, have never been divulged to the public.

I have a relative who's a Penn State alumnus but who has rooted fervently against the Nittany Lions since he was an undergraduate in the 1970s. The reason for his disdain, he said, is because the "entire system" at Penn State, going back to those years, has been "complicit" in keeping certain truths about the football program from seeing the light of day. The depth of the allegations against Sandusky and two school administrators suggests there might be some truth to it.

(At the same time, however, I ran this by another alumnus, a friend whose brother played on Penn State's 1986 national championship team. He agreed that certain minor matters might have resulted in the cops and others to look the other way. But he also said players responsible for serious and repeated transgressions had been dealt with harshly by Paterno and the university.)

Here's where you come in: If you had any firsthand encounters with the underside of the Penn State football program—encounters that were never pursued by the university or the local police—let us know. Send an email to, and tell us what happened.