Thursday, November 8, 2012

One Year of Ugly Headlines Later and Penn State Still Can't Shake the Mud From Its Boots

This is a crisis that won't go away. It's the Watergate in the '70s, Monica and Bill in the '90s, and who shot Kennedy in the past five decades. Every time a piece fits into the puzzle, at least two more disappear to leave the full picture -- well, more puzzling.

I thought I wrote my last eulogy for Penn State when the football season started. But no, this is the crisis that keeps on giving -- or actually, taking. Two events in the past week leave one to scratch one's head in bewilderment.

"(Former Penn State president Graham) Spanier, 64, was charged last week with perjury, obstruction, endangering the welfare of children, failure to properly report suspected abuse and conspiracy for his actions in response to complaints about (Jerry) Sandusky showering with children. Spanier has claimed he is being framed for political purposes."  (

Spanier entered no plea when arraigned on Wednesday. He is free on $125,000 bail.

The "political purposes" excuse makes sense to Pennsylvanians who watched the race for state attorney general unfold.

"With a decisive electoral victory in the books, Attorney General-elect Kathleen Kane now moves on to a potentially more sizable challenge: preparing to take the reins of a massive state agency. The Democrat campaigned in large part on a promise to immediately begin investigating how the attorney general's office under now-Gov. Tom Corbett and his appointed successor, Linda Kelly, handled the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse probe.

"She vigorously questioned the investigation's length and resources allocated to it, and maintained that skepticism as revelations came out last week on actions by Penn State University officials to stymie prosecutors' efforts."  (

Voters' questions fueled by Kane's Sandusky probe critique is evident in Centre County, the central Pennsylvania home of Penn State. While voters there were split in the Presidential race and went for Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey by a slim margin, they chose Kane with 56% over Republican David Freed's 40 percent. The voters made it clear they want more answers on Penn State's seemingly never-ending crisis.

"Asked before Tuesday night's returns began trickling in about Ms. Kane's harsh view of his work on the Sandusky case, Mr. Corbett said, 'It seems like she's the one who's turned the attorney general's office political.'"

This is an extreme example of how your crises can take on a life of their own. When you figure the cost of a crisis, take into account the aftershocks -- all those newsworthy events that could keep your dirty underwear in the public's eye. And don't forget the first anniversary, and the fifth, and so on. They're all ripples in your pond. The resulting waves depend on the size of the rock dropped into the water.

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