STATE COLLEGE, Pa.—Once the promised spectacle of Jerry Sandusky's scheduled hearing had fallen apart on Tuesday, what was there to do around State College, Pa., but try to get a look at the Nittany Lions' shower room? Dom and I wanted to photograph the scene of the most appallingly detailed of the alleged crimes, in the Lasch Football Building. The plumbing. The lockers. The layout—the building reportedly has "huge wood-paneled locker room that rivals any in the NFL."
Maybe we could also get a shot of Sandusky's old office, while we were around. Whatever measures Penn State took after 2002 to restrict the assistant coach's movements, he long maintained an office down the hall, courtesy of the university, which had made Sandusky an assistant professor emeritus of physical education when he retired in 1999. Until November of this year, Sandusky was still working out in the weight room of the Lasch.
Dom and I could have been craftier. First, we cased the $14.7 million building. In the lobby, we could see a receptionist at a desk and people in Penn State sweat suits moving up and down the stairs. We circled the exterior, trying side doors as we went. They were all locked. At the back of the building, we could peer into the 13,000-square-foot weight room. Two or three athletes were going about their athletic duties with barbells.
We wondered if the Penn State Ice Pavilion, which is connected to the Lasch, might offer another entry point and told the two kids at the front desk that we were sports reporters who wanted to check out the building. They waved us through. On the ice, a couple of hockey players were taking slap shots. Aside from them, the building was empty. It was finals week and quiet on campus. Dom and I tried more doors and looked for a hallway we could steal down and into the Lasch. No luck.
That left us with only one approach: the front door. In we went. The lobby was scrubbed and modern and littered with trophies—Orange Bowl cups with fake oranges packed inside, John Cappelletti's 1973 Heisman, an unidentifiable and unfortunate statuette of a football player holding a young boy aloft. The receptionist, who appeared to be an undergrad reviewing her class notes, eyed us.
We offered the same introduction as in the ice pavilion. The receptionist told us that her friend gave tours of the building. She left to find him. She returned with a slight, middle-aged man in a blazer and tie. He did not look like a friend of hers, or of ours. He marched straight toward us.
"Can I help you?"
I introduced myself and stuck out my hand. The man reluctantly took it. He told us his name was Jeff Nelson and that we could only look around the lobby. "The rest of the building is closed to the public," he said. Except for those tours, presumably. That was it. He showed us his back and walked away.
Jeff Nelson is not a tour guide; he's the assistant athletic director at Penn State and the media relations contact for PSU sports. Reporters who cover Penn State consider him difficult. He doesn't get back to people promptly. He makes it tough to interview players. He is not a forthcoming man.
The week that the Sandusky scandal broke, Nelson told the media that Joe Paterno wouldn't address the situation at his regularly scheduled press conference. When the national press descended on Happy Valley, Nelson read them a triple-spaced say-nothing note announcing that Paterno's press conference had been canceled. He answered no questions, showed everyone his back, and walked away. He was Penn State.