by Greg Gabriel
November 09, 02011
Since Monday I have been very disturbed about the Penn St scandal. I read the 23-page indictment and to say it was the most shocking thing I have ever read in my life is an understatement. Before I comment on the scandal, let me give you my view of what it’s like to visit Penn State as a scout.
I made my first visit to State College in 1984 when I was an area scout for National Scouting. It was a cross-check school for me so I only had to spend one day there. I quickly found out that it was easier to get information about things at the CIA than it was at Penn State.
Joe Paterno is not and never has been a “friend” of the NFL. He has a love for the college game but as far as the pro game, he could give a damn. He made it very difficult to get information. For several years Penn State has been open to scouts only a week or two all season (most years just 1 week) and that was usually their bye week. On more than one occasion when I have gone there, I would get to the school only to find out that they have “closed” practice for that day so my trip was a waste of both time and money. For those of you who have never been to Penn State, it’s not the easiest place to get to. It sits in the middle of the State of Pennsylvania and is at least a 2½ - 3 hour drive from both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. It’s not an easy interstate drive either. Much of the driving is 2-lane highway through the hills of Pennsylvania. So when you get there and find out that practice has been either canceled or closed you have wasted a whole day. Some of you may say, “Why don’t you just fly there?” Good question, but if you saw the State College airport you would know why it’s no fun to fly there either. The airport is extremely small and there are not a high number of convenient flights in and out of there every day…so in many cases it’s easier to drive.
ICONJoe Paterno didn't like NFL scouts hanging around State College.
If you’re lucky enough to be there for a visit and you get to watch tape and observe practice, you still don’t have enough information to write a valid report. Coach Paterno limits who you can talk to and the ones who do talk to you give you the “company line.” Such as “every prospect is a great kid, a hard worker, a strong leader, comes from a great family and has never been a problem.” In a fairy tale that sounds good but this is reality and scouts aren’t stupid, they know they are being lied to! Good scouts have to try and circumvent the rules, create relationships with employees who are around the football program and try to talk to assistant coaches “off the record.” Even then you still don’t know if you have accurate information. All I can say is there have been scores of players coming out of Penn State who didn’t turn out to be the person and player you thought they were — all because of the secrecy there and getting bad information.
In the spring during “Pro Days” season, they are just as difficult. Like many schools they only have 1 pro day but it is usually scheduled late in the afternoon which limits your time there because of the difficulty getting in and out of State College. If a coach wants to have a “private workout” with a prospect on a day other than the pro day he can’t do it on the Penn State campus; it has to be done in secret at a local high school. Why the secrecy? Because if Paterno found out he may discipline the prospect or have sanctions against the team involved. So you can see that as a scout and scouting director, I have no lost love for Penn St.
I will say that Paterno runs his program the way he wants to run it and you better not cross him. He is one of the most powerful men in central Pennsylvania and THE most powerful man at the school. Yes, the AD is his boss but on paper only. Paterno has final say on almost everything. A few years ago when many were looking for Paterno to either get fired or resign it couldn’t be done because of both his power and the fact that he is the single-most effective fundraiser in the school’s history…and as we all know money talks!
Getting back to the events of the past week, I can’t believe that what I have read in the indictment can happen in today’s world. Paterno has supposedly been a great leader of men for his whole life, but where was his leadership in the events that were going on in his football building? I have heard many on talk radio and television roundtables criticize assistant coach Mike McQueary for not immediately doing something when he walked in on Jerry Sandusky allegedly abusing a 10 or 11-year-old boy in the shower room. I tend to agree only because if McQueary or anyone else saw a defenseless person being attacked on the street they would come to that person’s aid, so why not protect a defenseless 10-year-old from abuse? It’s mind boggling!
Yes, McQueary went to Paterno the next day and reported the incident. But coach Paterno then dropped the ball. He reported it to the Athletic Director, and then let it go. Where was the follow-up? Why wasn’t Sandusky immediately charged with a crime? Nothing happened and the alleged abuse continued on other young boys for several more years! Where was Paterno’s leadership then? Did he not follow-up on the report because Sandusky was a close friend and his most trusted aid for more than three decades? It’s an outrage!
Earlier today it was reported that Paterno would resign at the end of the season. Why not now? How can the Penn State football team play a game with these distractions? I can only imagine how the fans in the stands (both home and away) will react to Paterno being on the field. It will make it very difficult for these young players to play the game with the enthusiasm that is required.
Joe, do the right thing and resign now.