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Penn State Scandal Still Lacks A Lot Of Details


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Steve Inskeep is visiting our member station WPLN in Nashville today. I'm Renee Montagne.

The sex abuse scandal at Penn State is raising more and more questions about who knew what, when; and what actions were or were not taken. Tomorrow, the school takes on Ohio State in what would otherwise be a showcase for two of college football's storied programs. Of course, there's nothing near normal this time around. OSU just went through a damaging episode with players getting improper benefits, but that pales in comparison to what Penn State has been facing.

NPR's Tom Goldman has spent the week in State College, Pennsylvania, home to Penn State. Good morning.


MONTAGNE: The first week of this scandal unfolded with shock and anger, and even some rioting after beloved head football coach Joe Paterno was fired. How would you describe this week at State College?

GOLDMAN: Well, not the same level of intensity, but it's there all the time. This is a pretty tight-knit community unified for a love for Penn State football. So you hear people talk about looking at others differently, wondering what they know or who might be involved.

Lots of discussion around town. A teacher told us one of her students said one day he was sick of talking about all this in all his classes. But it goes on, and so does the confusion and the sense of mystery as to what exactly happened, and why.

MONTAGNE: Well, in fact one of the elements of this unfolding scandal is quite confusing. It's the story of assistant football coach Mike McQueary.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, right. As many now know, McQueary testified that he saw Sandusky raping a boy in the showers at the football facility in 2002, although the grand jury report says McQueary didn't do anything to stop what he saw and didn't go to police. Then these emails emerged in which McQueary says he did intervene, and did talk to police. But local police say they have no records of McQueary reporting an alleged rape. And that's where we stand today, with McQueary in his home.

His wife answers the door when reporters approach, and politely says they have nothing to say yet. And people are wondering, is McQueary lying? Is the grand jury report flawed? Officials remind us, Renee, the report is a summary of the grand jury's work, not a presentation of all the evidence.

MONTAGNE: And the report includes allegations of abuse in 1998, which prompted the first known police investigation into Jerry Sandusky. The investigation ended without charges being filed. What did you find out about that?

GOLDMAN: There's been special attention to '98 because it's the first incident in the Sandusky case that raises suspicion of a cover-up. A - university police investigated after getting a report of contact in a shower between Sandusky and an 11-year-old boy. The county D.A. dismissed the case after hearing the police report, and Sandusky allegedly abused kids for another 10-plus years.

Now, a police report exists on the '98 case, but the public is being denied access. We talked to people from the university police department and the D.A.'s office close to the case. Some of what we found: The report is very thorough, down to the minute. Police felt they had strong case. There are rumors the former D.A., Ray Gricar, who decided not to pursue the case, was swayed by the power of Sandusky, Joe Paterno, Penn State football.

But those we talked to insist Gricar was a tough prosecutor. He pursued cases doggedly, even if it were a bad P.R. move.

MONTAGNE: Meaning Ray Gricar might have turned down the Sandusky case simply because it wasn't a case that he could win, for practical reasons.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, exactly right. Sources remind us the '98 incident, as detailed in the grand jury report, involved contact with an 11-year-old, but no sexual activity. Gricar, who we can't talk to because he disappeared several years ago and is presumed dead, may have felt it was a close call but that sexual abuse charges might not stick.

So there's still lots of questions about what happened with the '98 case. Lips are very tight in State College. We were told, several times, you'll have to wait until the December 7th preliminary hearing, where there could be new testimony and evidence presented.

MONTAGNE: And Tom, just quickly before you go - there are reports now about a sex abuse allegation in the athletic program of another big university.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, Syracuse University. Bernie Fine, a longtime assistant to well-known basketball head coach Jim Boeheim. He's been placed on administrative leave while police begin to investigate abuse allegations by two men. Police stress it's early in the investigation, but there may be more stories like this emerging now that the Penn State scandal is in the spotlight.

MONTAGNE: NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman, speaking to us from State College, Pennsylvania. Thanks very much.

GOLDMAN: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Renee Montagne
Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.