By Kyle Saukas
Few things capture the attention of the American populace more than sports and scandal. Because of this it is no small surprise that the allegations of child sex abuse against former Penn State University coach Jerry Sandusky have created the fourth biggest overall crime story since 2007, according to the PEW Research Center for Excellence in Journalism. This story has also maintained the second position in the most popular story for two weeks in a row starting from Nov. 7 till, Nov. 14 according to PEW researchers. So why are Americans so fascinated by this particular story and its continuing dominance of the news media? The answer may be the name of a man who, so far, has not been charged with any crime related to the case: Joe Paterno.
Jerry Sandusky started off his coaching career at Penn State in 1969 under his own former coach Joe Paterno. He retired after the 1999 season and had what most people in the sports world saw as a great an untarnished career. It wasn’t until Nov. 4 that his world, and the world of Penn State University came crashing down when victims broke their silence and accused Sandusky of sexually abusing them when they were children. Many of these victims were abused during Sandusky’s final years of coaching at Penn State or while taking part in Second Mile, which is a charity created by Sandusky for underprivileged youths.
With these revelations coming out investigations went under way. At this time it was learned that a graduate assistant of the Penn State football team had witnessed an act of abuse committed by Jerry Sandusky and reported it to head football coach Joe Paterno, who then reported it to Athletic Director Tim Curley and Senior V.P. of Finance and Business Gary Schultz. The story never made it to legal officials.
When the news media caught onto this story it was completely new territory. Usually college sports scandals involved the twisting and turning of rules such as Ohio Sate and the scandal with Terrell Pryor and other players selling memorabilia that violate NCAA rules. This time however it was a major coach of a major university whose faculty had helped cover up the story and in the middle of it all is one of the most important coaches in all sports history, Joe Paterno. This is where the media storm begins.
Jerry Sandusky has given one interview since being charged with these allegations while Joe Paterno has given over a dozen. It is known that he knew something was occurring but did not report it to the police, and in an unprecedented move he was fired by Penn State University even after he had announced his retirement at the end of this football season. Paterno is without a doubt the most popular coach in college sports and his involvement caught fire in the media.
This is the man that has become the face of one of the most popular universities in the country and the most legendary face in college football, which has a religious-like following in which Paterno is the supreme deity.
Taking this into account leads to the massive amount of coverage this story has had. His termination started a chain of events that continued this story and added to its popularity in the media. From student riots to a new head coach, the whole Penn State football season became a subject of this story, and every action taken by the school since has added to the amount of media time spent upon the case.
The media has drawn some fire from over coverage upon the situation of Joe Paterno, but maybe they are justified because the story with Joe Paterno still sells and the news should provide stories the American public wants? Fortunately for the masses the story isn’t ending soon because Sandusky, Curley, and Schultz have all been charged in this case and none of them has yet to set a foot in court. It is certain that this story will continue to evolve and most likely will dominate the media for the time to come.
Popularity in the media
Mishandling and overshadowing of Paterno in the media
Grand Jury Testimony of the case
Podcast on who is doing well handling the case and who is doing badly
Joe Paterno firing