The reports were shocking, the details grotesque — even with a buffer of time and distance.
For those of us in the Pacific Northwest, thousands of miles and years removed from the allegations of child molestation surrounding the Penn State football program, the reports have been enough to make your skin crawl.
But for Curt Warner of Camas, the stories land a little closer to his heart, as if the accusations involve a trusted uncle or a former neighbor.
“We are deeply, deeply disturbed about the whole situation, especially when you’re dealing with children,” Warner said Tuesday in a phone interview.
Warner played for Penn State from 1979-82. He was one of the best running backs the school has ever had, before becoming one of the best running backs the Seahawks have ever had.
And while he has lived in Camas since 1999, the revelations of this week have hit close to home.
“This is perhaps the last thing anybody would expect,” Warner said. “Surprised, disappointed, angry. You run through the gamut of emotions.”
Jerry Sandusky, a former longtime defensive coordinator at Penn State who was there during Warner’s time, has been accused of molesting a series of young boys in the most heinous fashion imaginable.
“In that particular time frame, Jerry Sandusky was a stand-up kind of guy,” Warner said. “But wow, we’re shocked.”
And with the accusations, the college football world has tilted on its axis.
This isn’t the University of Miami or Ohio State or some other school where the football program has only a passing acquaintance with decorum. This is Penn State, which for decades has been a seeming paragon of virtue in the slimy world of college football.
“Things were dealt with accordingly,” said Warner, who graduated with a degree in communications. “If you broke the rules, there were consequences.
“We were always steered in the right direction. In this case, there are a lot of questions about the integrity of Penn State as far as doing the right thing.”
That is where the ball lands in Joe Paterno’s lap. There are questions about what Paterno knew and when he knew it and what he did about it.
Never being one to wait for answers, the court of public opinion already has reached several conclusions, and reports Tuesday indicated that Paterno likely is on his way out as Penn State’s coach.
That seems appropriate. While Paterno apparently upheld his lawful obligation by going to the athletic director with the one allegation he had heard, he clearly did not fulfill his moral obligation.
Sandusky shall remain innocent until proven guilty. But the allegations against him are so disgusting, such a disturbing violation of decency, that any report of such an offense required some follow-up.
Yes, Paterno reported what he had heard. But because he apparently failed to pursue the matter, seemingly content to wash his hands of the issue because some higher-ups had been alerted, his exhortation Tuesday evening rings hollow.
“The kids that were the victims,” he told a crowd of supporters that had gathered on his lawn, “I think we ought to say a prayer for them.”
Too little. Too late. And you can’t help but wonder how many additional boys were abused since somebody at Penn State first became aware of the matter. The fact that Sandusky apparently was using athletic facilities as recently as last week is a condemnation of how seriously the university was taking this.
For Warner, his role as a father of four ultimately trumps his loyalty to his school.
“I can’t imagine,” he said. “Obviously, you would be asking some serious questions about the program with regards to why and how and where and why it took so long to come to light.”
That, unfortunately, is enough to unravel the legacy of college football’s winningest coach. That, it would seem, makes calls for Paterno’s ouster entirely justified.
“When you look at the scope of what took place and you look at the time frame of what took place,” Warner said, “I think that’s a fair request.”
Greg Jayne is Sports editor of The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4531, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. To “Like” him on Facebook, search for “Greg Jayne - The Columbian”