Thanks to Penn State Football, the Open Wounds of the Sandusky Scandal Still Fester

Penn-State-U

October 2, 2015; Centre Daily Times (State College, PA)

Sometimes, you really have to wonder about the judgment of people who should know better. Penn State University had planned to honor Bruce Heim, a graduate of West Point where he played football and an MBA graduate of Penn State, at the Penn State-Army football game scheduled for October 3rd. The plan was for Heim, a decorated war veteran, to represent Army during the coin toss.

Heim has another identity that doesn’t quite measure up to being honored at the Penn State game. He was a board member of Second Mile, the children’s charity where founder Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach at Penn State, recruited, solicited, and sexually abused at-risk young boys. Sandusky is now serving a long jail sentence for the multiple instances of sexual abuse.

The announcement of the plan to honor Heim generated a tidal wave of social media protest due to Heim’s role as vice-chair of the Second Mile board during much of the Sandusky perfidy. As the crescendo grew, Penn State president Eric Barron finally rescinded the invitation to Heim for the coin toss, explaining that Heim’s “participation in Saturday’s coin toss ceremony…reopened deep wounds in our community that do not involve his service to country.”

Heim didn’t take the decision kindly. Complaining about the “uninformed few who attacked my personal and professional integrity,” Heim said in a statement, “It is important to know that despite extensive and thorough investigation by five separate regulatory groups both state and federal, neither I nor any employees of The Second Mile were ever charged for a very simple reason. We did not know and were not complicit.”

It is true that the sexual abuse was Sandusky’s, not Heim’s. But Heim and the board may have abetted Sandusky by their inaction. In fact, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Heim, the biggest donor to Second Mile, has admitted that he saw Sandusky showering with children many times. Why didn’t he act? He told the Post-Gazette that he didn’t think Sandusky was pedophile. He also said that “every day at the YMCA, men shower with kids.”

The 74-year-old Heim seems to have not seen what he chose not to see, but another dimension of the Second Mile issue concerning Heim’s role is just as troubling. According to the Post-Gazette, Heim acknowledged that “he advised former Second Mile director Jack Raykovitz not to alert fellow board members when he was informed by former Penn State athletic director Tim Curley that Sandusky was seen in a shower with a child.” Why? Apparently because Heim said Raykovitz told him that Penn State had already investigated on its own and concluded that Sandusky had done nothing wrong in the showers with the kids.

Heim’s conclusion is, since no one but Sandusky was arrested and jailed, that “Second Mile didn’t do anything wrong.” That is about as wrong an analysis as one could conjure, given that Sandusky’s abuse continued for years, and despite several clues, no one intervened until a young assistant coach at Penn State brought his suspicions to former Penn State coach Joe Paterno.

The relevant issue is what was going through the minds of the Penn State administrators who concocted the plan to honor Heim. Apparently, no one on the 25-person committee at Penn State had a second thought about potential issues in honoring Heim. Until the social media protest, the Penn Staters seem to have agreed with Heim, who said, “Nobody in the Second Mile had any inkling that he had done anything wrong…. If you don’t believe it, then why hasn’t there been one charge brought against the Second Mile?” That isn’t the question. Sandusky was the sexual abuser. The Second Mile board was guilty, however, not of sexual abuse, but of being deaf, dumb, and blind—sort of like some senior people at Penn State as well during the Sandusky scandal. It would appear that the Penn State committee that invited Heim was also a bit insensitive to the open wounds that still fester from the scandal involving Sandusky, Second Mile, and Penn State itself.—Rick Cohen