Penn State Scandal: Is Matt Paknis Credible Witness to Joe Paterno Cover-Up?

Michael DixonAnalyst IIINovember 17, 2011

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA - NOVEMBER 08:  Penn State University head football coach Joe Paterno leaves the team's football building on November 8, 2011 in University Park, Pennsylvania. Amid allegations that former assistant Jerry Sandusky was involved with child sex abuse, Paterno's weekly news conference was canceled about an hour before it was scheduled to occur. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

I don't know about everyone else, but my questions around the scandal don't center around Jerry Sandusky. Sure, it's sickening when I read the Grand Jury Testimony and think about all of that happening.

But the fact is that there are sick people in the world and while there is no excuse for Sandusky, if he's proven guilty of these crimes, people like that do exist in the world. 

My question centers around who knew what when and why so many seemingly innocent people let it go for such a long time. 

Well, CBS St. Louis through WFAN in New York is shedding a little bit of light on that through former Penn State graduate assistant Matt Paknis. 

Paknis described Paterno’s rule over the Penn State campus as absolute.  “I think he had more power in the state of Pennsylvania than anybody.”

When asked about the possibility that Paterno could not be aware of reports on Sandusky’s behavior Paknis said it was “impossible.”

So, is that report credible?

Well, as was detailed in the report cited above, Paknis was a graduate assistant for Penn State in 1987 and 1988. Paterno had been a long-standing coach then. Now, more than 20 years later, it makes sense that he'd wield even more power. 

In other words, if Paterno didn't want something to get out, it wouldn't get out. That's what Paknis is alleging.

Now, is that a provable idea? In court, no? Paknis' personal accounts really ended in 1988 and we're talking about something that happened in 2002. 

But read something else that WFAN reported:

Paknis was a graduate assistant on the Nittany Lions football staff in 1987 and 1988. He says Sandusky exhibited questionable behavior towards the players back then.

As a childhood victim of sexual abuse, he said he remembered thinking how inappropriate it was when he saw Sandusky tickle and pinch little boys during football camps, sometimes putting them in headlocks.

Again, this doesn't prove anything that happened in 2002. It doesn't prove that what Sandusky is being accused of is true, nor does it prove a cover up. 

But in the court of public opinion, this seems like a very credible account. It seems at least possible that this was happening back in the 80s, if not before. It also seems possible that Paterno knew all along and wielded his influence to keep it all in house. 

Yes, a little bit more of Paknis' account does need to be told before we get fully invested in believing everything he is saying. But given everything else we've heard, Paknis is certainly not in a position to be ignored.


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