The conviction of Jerry Sandusky on 45 counts of child molestation last week was the easy part. Sad to say, but true. A Nittany mountain of evidence–all testimony and nothing physical–was ready to drop on top of the defendant. That sheer enormity, plus creepy little snippets like his Bob Costas phone interview already had him convicted in the court of public opinion. The trial was merely a necessary formality–the trap door to dump Sandusky into a hole for the rest of his life and to then open another door into the equally murky pit of civil liability.
Please don’t take that last statement to mean I don’t think the victims deserve just compensation. They do, and they will get it. A lay person like myself thinks that they could easily see eight figures apiece, depending on the level of abuse. Pennsylvania State University is in a world of hurt right now, still recovering from the inside and about to be assaulted next from the outside.
A major university in a populous northeastern state is as about as rich a target that liability attorneys could ever wish for. Flush with cash and very desirous to protect it’s reputation, Penn State is a dream defendant–the kind you risk attempting new strategies of legal liability precedence on. A quick review of Wiki (redundancy intended) reveals their endowment at just over $1.7B. (Auburn’s is only $472M) If you don’t know what an endowment is, endow yourself with some more knowledge. That’s some pretty serious money.
Keep in mind that I’m not an attorney nor do I know the legal clime in Pennsylvania. There could be caps on liability for public or state institutions, but I doubt it since I haven’t heard mention of it already. Penn State is about to be assailed like no other university ever has. In the end, they will settle, because they can ill afford to go down this public relations nightmare road again. But you can believe they’re gonna get dragged down it a few feet first.
Once I had heard the scope of the Sandusky scandal (my preferred choice of words), a number popped instantly into my head: one hundred million dollars. That’s how much I think it will ultimately cost PSU in compensation expenses. I still feel that number is accurate, and we don’t quite know still how many claimants there could be. What does seem evident is that the administrators of the university knew that the abuse was going on, or should have known, and that leaves no one in the secondary for coverage on the post route.
The attorneys representing the victims will band together and throw out a big number at the school. The school will scoff. The attorneys will then start to lay out their case in the media. Everyone will then start screaming–students, alumni, the football program, the residents of State College, the governor and state legislators, Joe Paterno’s family, the victims’ families–all to make it go away. And it will. One hundred mil later.
And like that, the largest scandal ever in college football history will finally be over. The irony will be seething as few even choose to remember back far enough to realize that football is where this abuse started. This event already claimed the life of Joe Paterno. While hardly a scapegoat itself since it simply served as a conduit for horrific crimes, this football scandal will make you long for the days of paying players, failed drug tests, arrests, and recruiting violations. Through the actions of one sick individual, the sport of college football crossed a line we never thought would be crossed. Penn State will heal. And college football will heal right along with her. Quickly, I hope.