Penn State chose not to stand by whistleblower Mike McQueary when he brought forward allegations of child sex abuse and later served as a witness in the case against Jerry Sandusky and the university. Now, the school is paying the price.
McQueary was awarded $4.97 million by Judge Thomas Gavin Wednesday, concluding his lawsuit against his former school for defamation and improperly handling a whistleblower. In his decision, Gavin hammered Penn State for attempting to freeze out the lifelong Nittany Lion when he participated as a witness in the lawsuit against the school. The full decision can be found here, via PennLive.
“Mr. McQueary’s career in football is over not because of his lack of a network but because of the cloud over his involvement in the Sandusky matter,” Gavin wrote. “A cloud created and reinforced by Penn State’s public actions taken against him which made him persona non grata in the football world.”
McQueary claimed to have seen Sandusky assaulting a young boy in 2001; he subsequently spoke with his father and a family friend before reporting Sandusky to Joe Paterno and Penn State officials.
Penn State attempted to argue that its decision to let McQueary go in 2011 was purely a football decision—Gavin smelled the bullshit, however. The largest chunk of Wednesday’s award came from Penn State’s decision to actively undercut McQueary’s ability to further pursue his coaching career—the former receivers coach was awarded $3.97 million for “past and future lost wages, and for the tax penalty incurred.” In the decision, Gavin wrote that prior to Nov. 4, 2011, Penn State had no reason to terminate McQueary. Prior to his firing, McQueary, who at the time seemed on pace to eventually obtain an offensive coordinator position, garnered either the highest or second-highest marks on his annual employee reviews.
After the fact that McQueary was a key witness in the lawsuit against Sandusky and Penn State was made public, both university and athletic department officials failed to publicly or privately clear McQueary’s name. This, after former athletic director Tim Curley and former senior VP Gary Schultz were publicly defended by former school president Graham Spanier. McQueary was placed on leave in the fall of 2011, forced to clear out his office under supervision, banned from Penn State athletic facilities, and was not granted an interview with incoming head coach Bill O’Brien.
Included in the decision under a section title “Humiliation” were examples of the personal and professional ruin that has followed McQueary since he blew the whistle on the former Nittany Lions defensive coordinator and serial child rapist—McQueary was denied a position at Elizabeth City State for the notoriety tied to his name, excommunicated from the Penn State athletic community, and was even denied a job as a cashier at a local Rite Aid. He currently lives with his parents, away from his young daughter and wife—the two are separated. The judge granted McQueary an additional $1 million for non-economic damages.
In late October, a jury awarded the still-jobless 47-year old $7.3 million, finding Penn State guilty of defamation. With Wednesday’s decision, McQueary’s award total from his lawsuit against the school is now $12.27 million.