restricted access 15. Paterno, Spanier, Schultz, Curley, and the Penn State Pandora’s Box
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chapter 15 Paterno, Spanier, Schultz, Curley, and the Penn State Pandora’s Box “We thought, because we had power, we had wisdom.” —Stephen Vincent Benét (1935) “I backed away.” —Joe Paterno (2012) Pandora’s box in Happy Valley was indeed opened and with it a release of the evils of a child sexual predator laid upon the valley and far beyond. The original Pandora’s box, the creation of the ancient Greek gods, specifically the supreme god Zeus, contained all the evils of the world. When Pandora turned the afflictions loose because of her curiosity, the happy and contented world was no longer. A multitude of curses was set free—from disease and devastation to hunger and hubris. Hubris is the Greek word for extreme pride and self-confidence—an overestimation of one’s own competence. Was it extreme confidence within a group of four Penn State athletic administrators? Did they come to think, as Stephen Vincent Benét once wrote, “because we had power, we had wisdom”?1 Did they feel they could keep the lid on the Happy Valley Pandora’s box and protect the image of one of the great educational institutions in which the revelation of child violations was hidden away? Who were these four individuals who isolated events related to Penn State athletics? Who were Tim Curley, Gary Schultz, Graham Spanier, and Joe Paterno? It may seem curious that Joe Paterno is often made the center of the Jerry Sandusky Scandal when he was never legally charged with obstruction of justice or covering up Sandusky’s actions. A major reason is likely that Paterno is a much better story because of his iconic image as a winning coach of a squeaky-clean program with a high graduation rate and a coined phrase, the Grand Experiment; an educational philanthropist; and the most effective money raiser in Penn State’s history. Who could say anything like that for Athletic Director Tim Curley, Business Vice President Gary Schultz, or the more visible President Graham Spanier? Although those three totaled a century of service to Penn State in administrative capacities, Joe Paterno alone served the university for sixty-one years, for nearly Smith_text.indd 161 12/7/15 11:11 AM 162 chapter 15 a half-century administering a football program and for a short two years, but extremely important ones, as athletic director. Take Tim Curley, for instance. He was born and raised in State College across from Penn State’s football field, called New Beaver Field, on the campus where his father was an administrator. He went to the local high school and attended the university, earning two degrees, one in physical education and another in counselor education. He was on the football team for four years but never played one minute.2 He bled blue and white. As soon as he could, he joined the Athletic Department staff and rose to responsible positions, often doing the bidding of coach Paterno. Athletic Director Jim Tarman made him the coordinator of the effort to negotiate entrance into the Big Ten in 1990.3 When Tarman retired in 1993, Curley, not one of the other athletic administrators , Herb Schmidt, was the insider chosen along with the backing of Paterno, when an outsider, a woman, was strongly considered for the position. Curley was fortunate to have Paterno’s support, but it may have cost him in the long run being so closely tied to the individual with power in athletics and in the entire university. A small but poignant example in the Curley–Paterno relationship comes to mind relative to the indoor football arena, Holuba Hall, constructed in 1986 as Penn State moved toward its second national championship. When Tim Curley became athletic director, he e-mailed a rule to all members of the athletic department because a new artificial carpet had just been installed. No foreign material, water bottles, chalk, cleats, could be brought into the facility. A few days later, Paterno held the football banquet in the facility, resulting in all kinds of materials ending up on the carpet. A friend of Curley’s from middle school days jokingly e-mailed Curley, “Who’s going to tell Joe to stop using the facility?” Curley e-mailed back, “Ha!”4 Joe told the administrator over him, Curley, what to do, not the opposite, for Paterno was almost without exception the boss at Penn State. Nevertheless, Curley’s running of the athletic program for eighteen years was considered so...


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Subject Headings

  • Pennsylvania State University -- Sports.
  • Pennsylvania State University -- Football.
  • Paterno, Joe, 1926-2012.
  • Sandusky, Jerry.
  • Pennsylvania State University -- Sports -- Administration.
  • College sports -- Corrupt practices -- Pennsylvania -- University Park.
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