Ex-FBI Agent: Bo Schembechler Would Have Handled Penn State Sex Scandal Differently
Greg Stejskal served as an FBI agent for 31 years and retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office. He is an occasional contributor to Deadline Detroit.
By Greg Stejskal
The results of an independent investigation by ex-FBI Director Louie Freeh has been released about the Penn State scandal and it’s quite damning.
Apparently Penn State football coach Joe Paterno knew of allegations of Sandusky’s sexual child abuse as early as 1998. He apparently forced Sandusky to “retire” from the PSU coaching staff (after the 1999 season), but gave him a unique severance package including $168,000 and the designation Assistant Professor Emeritus – thus, allowing Sandusky continued, unrestricted access to Penn State athletic facilities.
This makes Paterno’s actions and inaction in 2002 all the more indefensible. When confronted with an eyewitness account of Sandusky sexually abusing a child in a shower at the PSU football facility, Paterno passed the report to his superiors. But rather than actively pursue it, Paterno counseled that the allegations not be reported to law enforcement or child welfare services.
Paterno was an active participate in the cover-up. Then he lied about it under oath.
That being said, it made me think that Bo Schembechler, who I got to know while I headed up the FBI’s Ann Arbor office, would have handled it differently from the beginning, and it would not have ended like this.
He used to say: “ Do the Right Thing –Always.”
Bo was a legendary football coach at Michigan from 1969-1989 and a peer of Paterno.
To the best of my knowledge, Bo never had to deal with any of his staff being alleged child molesters. He did have situations that required staff and players having to take responsibility for their acts even if it might reflect badly on Michigan, a place he loved and revered.
In 1987, the FBI was investigating two sports agents, Norby Walters and Lloyd Bloom, who had ties to organized crime. Walters and Bloom had worked up a scam where they bribed blue-chip college football players to sign post-dated, secret, agency contracts while they were still eligible to play college football - a clear violation of NCAA rules. Ultimately some of the players balked, threats were made by Walters and Bloom, and the whole thing fell apart. Players who had signed the contracts were identified. They were all star players on prominent college teams. Two of the players were on Bo’s 1986 Michigan team.
When Bo found out, he was livid. He called one of the players, Garland Rivers, an All-American DB, into the office and had Rivers tell him the whole story. Then Bo called me.
When I got to Bo’s office, Bo told Rivers “Tell this FBI agent everything about your relationship with Norby Walters.” Bo could have distanced himself and Michigan from the investigation. Michigan would have been just one of many major football programs victimized by Walters and Bloom. But that wasn’t Bo. Damage control doesn’t mean hiding from the truth. It means taking responsibility for your actions and trying to rectify the mistakes.
Walters and Bloom had enticed his players to break the rules. They had besmirched Michigan. Bo knew he had to take a stand and do what he could to protect future players from illicit agents. Later when Walters and Bloom went on trial in Federal Court for racketeering and fraud, Bo testified. He was the star witness. His testimony was so strong, the defense declined to cross exam him. Walters and Bloom were convicted. What had been a dark moment in Michigan football history was a comeback win as important as any that had occurred on the field.
So what would Bo have done if faced with an assistant coach who was suspected of molesting young boys. We’ll never know for sure, but I’m certain that he wouldn’t have just reported the allegations to his boss and done nothing else. Bo would have made sure the police were aware of the allegations. And that assistant coach would not have any further connection with the University and wouldn't be emeritus anything.
We may never know why Paterno failed to pursue the Sandusky matter further. Perhaps Paterno didn’t do more out of a misguided effort to protect the reputation of Penn State, but if that was the motive, far more damage has been done to Penn State’s reputation than would have been done had this matter been fully confronted in 1998 or 2002.
Bo did not see various degrees or shades of honor and integrity. You either did the right thing or you didn’t – half way was unacceptable.