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Jeff Byers: Real Healing Can Begin With Time

by on August 07, 2012 6:00 AM

Now, the healing can begin.

I have heard this phrase more often than I can count over the course of the past nine months. The healing began long ago but people keep puncturing the stab wounds and the bleeding never seems to stop. The Jerry Sandusky scandal was shocking in so many ways on so many levels. The psychological scabs will forever remain with the true victims of the crimes and with our community as a whole.

Hopefully, the survivors of abuse can find true peace and justice and lead productive, healthy lives. Hopefully, this community can truly heal – never forgetting the need to truly stand guard for children and always remain alert against predators and potential predators. I don’t think this community needs to turn its back on football to prove that it understands the gravity of the situation.

I still believe it is possible to be a football fanatic – to support your coach and your team – and also take a strong position against child rape. I don’t buy that the “football culture” at Penn State led to a cover-up of sexual crimes against children. I think a misplaced sense of loyalty and an inability to comprehend the true nature of what was being alleged is what led to magnitude of the scandal at Penn State.

The healing, we were told, began when Joe Paterno was fired and the teams gathered at the middle of the field before the Penn State/Nebraska game last season. The healing really began once Bill O’Brien was hired. Then the healing began again when Sandusky was convicted. Then, once the statue came down, the healing could truly begin.

Alas, it wasn’t until Penn State so readily accepted the sanctions of the NCAA that the real healing began. There have been several other moments over the past nine months that have seemed to mark for some the initiating of the healing process.

There is no single healing process applicable to all. Some will heal through time and reflection. Some will heal with the help of others and with newfound knowledge. Some will heal with humor and other coping mechanisms.

For the healing to truly continue – for it has in fact begun, although to what degree is a matter of perspective – we, the alumni of Penn State, need several things to happen. We need as many facts to be put on the table as possible. We need the trials of Gary Schultz and Tim Curley to be resolved. We need a thorough investigation of The Second Mile and what transpired with the leadership of that organization.

We need a thorough investigation of Tom Corbett and his role with the investigation and his ties to The Second Mile. We need as much information as we can gather to either confirm or rebuke the long litany of rumors and suppositions that are out there regarding the entire scandal. We need true reform by, and of, the Board of Trustees and by the Penn State administration (note: true reform is not saying you are now accountable and you are transparent, it is actually being accountable and making records accessible).

We need a national search for the best possible president and the best possible athletic director. It is true that Rodney Erickson and Dave Joyner stepped into their roles during a difficult time and have done the best they can. It is possible that Penn State won’t get top-notch applicants to those positions given the circumstances.

But we owe it to the students, the student-athletes and the University to provide the best leadership possible. Few would argue that under extremely challenging circumstances, Penn State did get a great leader in Bill O’Brien. It is certainly possible that the University could find similar right fits for the President and Athletic Director jobs as well.

We also need perspective that perhaps only time will give us. It is doubtful that we will ever know, factually, what was going through the minds Joe Paterno, Tim Curley, Gary Schultz and Graham Spanier after the 2001 reporting by Mike McQueary.

What they actually thought may or may not have happened and the motives behind not going to authorities will forever be debated and regardless of what comes of the pending trials, some will forever believe all were good men who were completely fooled and others will believe they were evil men who hid their true nature from the public.

My best guess, and it is just that, is that they were good men who should have been able to see that there was a very real threat but willingly chose to stay loyal to a coach they could not comprehend was capable of such crimes against children.

I’m not sure what really comprises the healing process in a case like this, but I am certain it has begun and am hopeful that someday it will be completed for all involved.

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Jeff Byers has been the wrestling team’s traveling announcer since 1990.
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