The Rise and Fall of Jerry Sandusky

The revelation that Jerry Sandusky, one of college football's most successful defensive coordinators for more than two decades, allegedly sexually assaulted eight boys — and possibly more — has already damaged reputations and permanently scarred Penn State football. Amid the comparatively less severe scandals that have surfaced in college football over the past year, the repulsing details have reminded both fans and casual observers about life's real problems. The sport is composed of humans, both good and bad, with tremendous flaws, and Sandusky is a prime example. During his is best years, he was considered the leading candidate to replace Paterno as Penn State's head coach, and was praised for his character as he founded The Second Mile, a nonprofit organization that was supposed to help at-risk youth. Now, he's merely seen as a monster. Here are the key points in the steady rise and precipitous fall of the life of Sandusky.

  1. Playing career and intro to coaching (1963-1976)

    Sandusky's devotion to Penn State and defensive scheming began during his playing career as a starting defensive end under head coach Rip Engle, who also coached quarterback Joe Paterno from 1946 to 1949. Sandusky graduated first in his class in 1966 with a bachelor of science degree in health and physical education, and joined new head coach Paterno at Penn State as a graduate assistant. After he served as an assistant at Juniata College and Boston University, he officially joined Paterno's staff as the defensive line coach in 1969. From 1970 to 1976, he served as the linebackers coach, contributing to the development of well-known players such as Jack Ham.

  2. Promotion to defensive coordinator (1977)

    Recognizing his adeptness at coaching linebackers, Paterno promoted Sandusky to the position of defensive coordinator in 1977. The same year, he began writing Developing Linebackers the Penn State Way, a manual offering his expertise on the position — the proceeds of which went to his new charity, The Second Mile (see below). At the age of 33, he had ascended to a position of power within one of the most prestigious programs in the country and in a community in which football players and coaches were gods.

  3. Founding of The Second Mile (1977)

    After adopting five children and helping raise three foster children, Sandusky channeled his purported concern for children into the development of The Second Mile. After three years of fundraising, he built a group home two miles from Beaver Stadium. Originally just a small organization that helped a handful of children, it has grown exponentially in the past three decades, now working with more than 100,000 children from Pennsylvania. Its success is due in large part to Sandusky's stature, which has enabled him to effectively promote it.

  4. Two national championships (1982, 1986)

    The pinnacle of Sandusky's career came during the 1980s when his stout defenses enabled the Nittany Lions to win two national championships. In 1982, he oversaw two shutouts during the season, including one against No. 13 West Virginia at Mountaineer Field. In 1986, his defense surrendered just 11 points per game during the regular season, and memorably held the potent Miami offense to just 10 points in the national championship game, forcing seven turnovers. Recognized as a primary reason for the program's success, he became a high profile head coaching candidate. He declined an interview with Maryland in 1991, hoping to inherit the Paterno's spot once he retired.

  5. First reported abuse begins (1994-1997)

    According to the grand jury report, Sandusky met three victims, each of whom was participating in The Second Mile program, in a period from 1994 to 1997. One boy was seven or eight years old, one was 10 years old, and the other was 12 or 13 years old. The grand jury report states that the abuse ranged from touching to sexual encounters.

  6. Penn State University police conduct investigation (1998)

    A mother of an 11-year-old boy with whom Sandusky allegedly showered contacted the police, who in turn conducted an investigation. With the permission of the mother, Detective Ronald Schreffler listened in on two phone conversations between the mother and Sandusky. She attempted to make Sandusky promise to never shower with a boy again, but he refused. He asked for forgiveness, and then said, "I wish I were dead." He again admitted to investigators that he showered with the victim and hugged him, and recognized that it was wrong. No charges were filed and the case was closed.

  7. Retirement (1999)

    Sandusky retired in 1999 at the age of 55 because, according to him, he realized that he would never become Penn State's head coach. He was sent off with a memorable 24-0 shutout of Texas A&M in the Alamo Bowl, and was carried off the field by his players in a demonstration of their appreciation for his tutelage. In hindsight, the timing of the retirement has drawn suspicions from observers of the Penn State program, causing them to question whether or not Paterno and the athletic department knew about the investigation at the time.

  8. First two eyewitness reports in Penn State's Lasch Football Building (2000)

    During an evening in which most of the building had cleared out, James Calhoun, a janitor, allegedly discovered Sandusky in the shower performing a sex act on a young boy, Victim 8, who he described as between 11 and 13 years old. Calhoun reported it to his supervisor after discussing it with his fellow employees. Another unnamed janitor allegedly later spotted the two leaving the shower room holding hands, but the incident wasn't reported to the police.

  9. Third eyewitness report and second incident in Penn State's Lasch Football Building (2002)

    In a situation similar to the first encounter, a Penn State graduate assistant allegedly found Sandusky in the shower with an unidentified young boy, who he thought was 10 years old, engaged in intercourse. Physically shaken, he called his father, who advised him to report the incident to Paterno. Tthe following day, he visited Paterno in his home and described what he saw. Paterno responded by calling Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley. A month later, Curley and Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz met with graduate assistant, who again described the incident. The graduate assistant was later told that Sandusky's keys to the locker room had been revoked, and that The Second Mile had been alerted. He was never contacted by the police.

  10. Arrest is made (2011)

    Arrested on November 5, Sandusky was arraigned on 40 criminal counts, 21 of which were felonies, including seven counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. The preliminary hearing for his trial was postponed to December 7. Curley and Shultz were charged for failing to report the abuse allegations — Curley was subsequently given administrative leave, and Shultz retired. On November 9, Joe Paterno announced that he would retire at the end of the season.

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