Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sound familiar?

There's so much going on today, I struggled to pick one topic. Maryland Swimming is under serious threat, a prospect that is completely terrifying. The first set of College dual meet rankings is set to be released later in the day. But you won't hear about either of those things if you turn on sports center. The sports world's gaze is firmly fixed on State College, PA. But this is a swimming blog! And still it might be the most important swimming topic of the day.

For those that haven't been following, news broke over the weekend that long time Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky would be indicted for committing sexual crimes against minors. That part of the story should be all too familiar to the swimming community, as the details of allegations against Sandusky poured out. They detailed how he used his position of authority and children's charity to get access to and abuse children.

Equally troubling are the indictments of two Penn State officials, Athletic Director Tim Curley and Vice President Gary Schultz. Both are alleged to have been given a first hand account of Sandusky having anal sex with a ten year old boy, but the only action they took was to ban Sandusky from Penn State main campus facilities. Head football coach, Joe Paterno and Mike McQueary, the graduate assistant who reported the incident to Paterno and the administration, aren't in any legal trouble, but they certainly are in moral trouble over their hesitance to do anything more than send it one step up the line.

It's both heartening and depressing to see the response. After "nothing to see here" response from Penn State president Graham Spanier, the board of trustees stepped in and seem to be moving swiftly to hold the administrators accountable. Is there even one person in a position of significant power in swimming that has taken action to hold coaches accountable? Or are they all in "nothing to see here" mode?

The masses seem to have no trouble publicly calling for the heads of Paterno and others. In swimming the response to our powerful people putting themselves before victims remains largely muted. The public outcry has already yield a pretty dramatic outcome: Paterno announced as I was writing this blog that he would be retiring at the end of the year. It may not be enough, but the thought of Paterno stepping away was pretty unthinkable a week ago.

There are certainly some positives to swimming existing mostly far out of the limelight. It keeps the majority of our athletes fairly well grounded. It means that as a college coach, I get to coach student athletes rather than running a minor league for the pros. The down side is this- there is almost no one outside of swimming to hold the most powerful people in our sport accountable. When Joe Paterno is in trouble, he has to hide from a ravenous media that wants him to answer the hard questions. When Chuck Wielgus is under fire, he gets lobbed a few softballs from Swimming World Magazine, shuts down access to anyone else and we're all supposed to forget it ever happened.

Penn State is a lesson to the swimming community- but is anyone listening?


  1. This story is beyond disturbing! I'm so tired of all the cowards who cover for their friends. What the hell is wrong with people? If the 10 year old was related to one of these men, I'm sure the authorities would have been notified!!!

  2. The Chuck in the PSU situation is Mark Emmert of the NCAA not Joe Paterno.

  3. There is a difference between USA Swimming and the Penn State scandal.

    Penn State had a single offender improperly dealt with. USA Swimming's story is over a decade of abuse by multiple assailants systematically overlooked or covered up by Wielgus & Company to protect their out-sized compensation package.

    You might be able to call the Penn State officials naive or short-sighted for the handling of their situation. USA Swimming could only be termed as greedy and evil.

  4. The baffling thing about the Penn State case is that there was an actual eyewitness! They could have sidestepped all of the ugly mess that comes up when a child is afraid to speak out against an adult abuser. Insane.

    did anyone see the Law & Order SVU that had a similar plot? It was a basketball coach, but the same premise-- used a youth outreach camp to get his hands on young boys. eerily similar. the sandusky case was pursued a decade ago by the DA who ended up missing and never found. did SVU writers know about the case? strange.

  5. I don't believe the Penn State officials are naive or short-sighted. These people know exactly what they are doing and are benefiting for keeping silent.

    The same goes for Swimming. The people who can affect change are the same people who remain silent or help with the cover-up and then are rewarded with positions like managing the national team and the Olympic team. These people have no interest in what they can do for the kids and sport of swimming only what the sport of swimming can do for them.