Ob Populus

Beware of Assumptions

In Uncategorized on August 10, 2012 at 6:17 pm

  

The Bad News Bears

The Bad News Bears (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Remember what happens when one assumes – it can make an ass out of you and me. If you don’t believe me, watch Walter Matthau’s character in “Bad News Bears” explain the folly of just going along with what is assumed to be.

The lesson of the movie is to challenge assumptions for if you always go along with what you are told, sooner or later, you will be made a fool of. Which brings me to the Freeh report and its impact on Penn State.

Obviously, a lot of work went into this report with reams of evidence being discovered and from this evidence reasonable conclusions were drawn to indict many in Penn State for their failure to act. Put another way, assumptions were made to infer as to why officials at the university did what they did. Even though a lot of work went into this report, it was limited as many important players were not interviewed by the Freeh group for a myriad of reasons. In fact, outside of Graham Spanier, none of the main participants were interviewed; thus the reliance on reasonable conclusions or assumptions, if you will. And what happens if it turns out that these assumptions are wrong?  A lot of important people will have egg on their faces.

A case in point. Mr. Freeh alleges Joe Paterno knew (Mr. Paterno before the Grand Jury stated that he did not know about any previous sexual incidents involving Jerry and young boys. The inference is that Coach Paterno perjured himself as part of a cover-up) about the 1998 investigation into Jerry Sandusky‘s incident with a young boy. He bases this on an e-mail that refers to “coach” being anxious as to the status of the investigation. Obviously, Mr. Freeh assumes coach means Joe Paterno and Paterno lied to save his hide. Here is the exhibit relied upon by Mr. Freeh:

 So what does “coach is anxious to know where it stands” mean?

The Freeh group not interviewing many of the main players either by choice or circumstances was put in a difficult position. Dynamics such as how the parties interacted with each other is beyond the investigating group’s grasp. Putting words in their proper context without the ability to understand the interactions of those involved is a difficult task and assigning meaning to those words can lead to wildly inaccurate assumptions. 

Now the Freeh group did not know this but it is now being reported by those familiar with the parties that Curley never referred to Joe Paterno as coach; he simply called him Joe. If this is true, then it would be an unreasonable conclusion to assert that coach in the e-mail referred to Coach Paterno. So who is it?

Well, the heading of the e-mail refers to Jerry, most likely Mr. Sandusky. Would he not also be anxious to learn of the results of the police investigation, as his head was in the noose. Could the term coach relate back to him since he is mentioned in the subject line? Quite possibly and just as reasonable if not so more than the Freeh group conclusion.

Now re-read the e-mail in question but instead of thinking of Joe Paterno think of Jerry Sandusky. It puts the matter in a whole new light and is a more logical conclusion than the Freeh report.

If this assumption is wrong, what else in the report may be inaccurate?  If those in charge at the NCAA and Penn State do not wish to look foolish, they may want to take another look at the Freeh report, sometimes reasonable conclusions are not always reasonable.

  1. I agree that the Freeh Report makes assumptions not based in fact, and misrepresents the Penn State culture. As a law enforcement professional, I was appalled by the Report’s lack of specificity, its great leaps of faith, and its inflammatory language. I had never seen anything like that before in an investigative report. I think the Board of Trustees owes us an open and thorough debate on each of the assumptions upon which Freeh’s recommendations are based, and on the impact that each recommendation would have on our University. For the BOT to rubber stamp Erickson’s endorsement would be a disservice to us all and bring into question the purpose of having such a Board. Trustee Joel Myers’ request for a BOT debate will hopefully prevail. And regardless of Erikson’s peremptory acceptance of the Report, for the NCAA to base its sanctions it, with hardly the opportunity to read it, let alone understand it, was very unprofessional. And for them to conclude from the Freeh Report that football and academics at Penn State were out of whack is absurd. If any major college football program had it right, it was ours. The graduation rate of Paterno’s student-athletes makes my point.

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