NBC 5's Marc Fein worked in Harrisburg, Pa., covered the Nittany Lions and spoke with Jerry Sandusky several times. This is his perspective on the scandal rocking Penn State University.
We’ve all been horrified at the events in Happy Valley, Pennsylvania over the last week. Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky charged with using his non-profit organization to gain access to young boys who he is accused of sexually assaulting.
In the last 24 hours the president of the University, Graham Spanier, and legendary head coach and icon Joe Paterno were both fired.
I worked in Harrisburg, Pa., from 1995 to 1999 and covered the Nittany Lions for a local affiliate. I also attended several events for “The Second Mile,” Sandusky’s charity, and even emceed an event once. I also had the chance to speak one-on-one with Sandusky on several occasions.
Here’s why this is so sad. The Jerry Sandusky I knew a decade ago was the kind of person that, when you left an event he was involved with or an interview with him, you felt like the world was a better place because he was in it. He and his wife took children into their home; dozens of foster kids. They started a charity for at-risk kids throughout the state of Pennsylvania. They provided food, shelter, support and education for so many kids who were hurting; and they helped to find them homes.
I remember that after talking with Sandusky I couldn't believe there was a human being who could give so much, emotionally and financially to help so many others. And he did all this while holding the position of defensive coordinator for one of the most prominent football programs in the country. How did he have the time? The energy? It made me feel so good to know that there was someone like that out there.
Being around Jerry Sandusky made me want to be a better person. It made me want to give back and do more for others. As a young reporter covering the world of sports, there were so many stories about athletes, coaches, and former athletes that were negative. Being around Jerry Sandusky gave me hope.
So when I heard the news this week I was physically ill. I'm still sick. The only comparison I can think of would be what people who belong to a church must feel like when a man of God, their spiritual leader, is accused of similar conduct.
If the allegations are true, Sandusky has to be punished to the full extent of the law. Paterno had to go. The president of the university had to go. And it’s unconscionable to me that athletics director Tim Curley is yet to be fired. It will be interesting to hear the explanation on why he’s still around.
As for Paterno, letting him remain in his position as head coach would have been the equivalent of the university rubber stamping any employee who failed to properly report and follow up on a report of a criminal act. The fact that Paterno was not only in a position of power, but arguably the most powerful person at the university, obviously made his actions worse.
Today I’m sad. I feel for the families of the kids who were abused. I feel for the fans at Penn State who have put their support, energy and emotion behind a program that has now betrayed them. I hurt for sports fans in general, who continue to be let down by athletes, coaches, professional organizations and academic institutions. And I feel for all the people, like me, who looked up to someone who made them feel good about the world we live in, only to find out that he might be capable of the most unspeakable evil.