Joe Paterno, former head football coach at Penn State. Michigan State University former gymnastics coach, Kathie Klages. Ohio State head football coach, Urban Meyer. The late Coach Paterno was told about the behaviors of now convicted child molester, Jerry Sandusky, and aware of reports made by others about that same behavior. Kathy Klages retired last year after 27 years at Michigan State when she was accused of trying to cover up allegations of sexual abuse of young female gymnasts by then team physician, Lawrence G. Nassar. Nassar is in prison for 40-175 years and Ms. Klages was just charged with lying to authorities about her knowledge of Nassar’s crimes. Urban Meyer, according to a $500,000 investigative report Ohio State’s Board of Trustees commissioned, had a blind spot when it came to the debts, the spousal abuse allegations, the affair with a football department secretary, and a rehab stint of his assistant coach, Zach Smith. And the strip bar trips only got a warning. Nothing seemed to faze the coach; taking action found him frozen. Mr. Meyer ran a program in which no one felt comfortable enough to report Smith’s participation in lewd sexual activities at Ohio State facilities. And the investigators are not sure whether Coach Meyer deliberately deleted texts from his phone.
Think about this — these are coaches in the rugged world of college sports. Performance is everything, and their jobs are on the line with every game, meet, and championship. These are the people who are demanding disciplinarians. However, when it came to taking action to stop behavior that was hurting deeply so many people inside and outside their programs, they choked.
There remains one additional puzzle in all of this: Why hasn’t every coach around the country taken a hard look at their own programs, personnel, and conduct, and stood up and taken the heat, the consequences, and the burden of saving those who are powerless and abused? Well, that would be because a three-game suspension doesn’t sting as much. And when your record is stripped but then restored and there is still a day at the stadium that honors you, why bother? Full retirement is not a bad result for shielding an abuser. Humans respond to the pain that is in front of them. Given our laxity in dishing up consequences, why would they not remain sullen and mute? We share the blame for our tolerance of the outrageous and failure to demand consequences.