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For Penn State’s Mike McQueary, questions and a leave

- The Washington Times - Friday, November 11, 2011

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Near the center of Penn State's brick-filled campus sprawls the Lasch Football Building. A city unto itself, the complex includes three full-size football fields, a 13,000-square-foot weight room and a locker room the university describes as "massive."

Into that locker room strode Mike McQueary, then a 28-year-old graduate assistant coach, on March 1, 2002, to drop off a pair of sneakers and grab recruiting tapes.

Then McQueary heard "rhythmic, slapping sounds" coming from the showers, according to the 23-page grand jury indictment of former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky on 40 counts of sexually abusing boys. When McQueary looked into the shower, the indictment said, he witnessed a naked Sandusky raping a naked 10-year-old boy. In the indictment, the boy is called "Victim 2."

What happened next landed McQueary in the middle of the sexual-abuse scandal nine and a half years later that has devastated this community in the shadow of 2,077-foot Mount Nittany. And the former Penn State quarterback, who now coaches wide receivers and coordinates recruiting, sparked a debate over if fulfilling one's legal obligation is the same as doing what is right.

On Friday afternoon, interim Penn State president Rodney Erickson continued the university's shifting series of statements on the 37-year-old McQueary's status. The red-haired fixture on Penn State's sideline was placed on administrative leave and will not coach in Saturday's game against Nebraska at Beaver Stadium.

"That's a complicated kind of situation," Erickson said. "What became clear is under any circumstances he would not be able to function in a coaching role."

The day before, Tom Bradley, the interim coach after Joe Paterno was fired late Wednesday night, said McQueary would coach Saturday. At no time had the university considered removing McQueary, Bradley said, indicating the decision for McQueary to coach came from interim athletic director Mark Sherburne.

"Once again," Bradley said, "that's based on the administration."

Hours later, Penn State announced McQueary would not coach Saturday because of "multiple threats" against him. The nature of the threats weren't specified.

The State College police department didn't immediately return a message Friday asking if they were investigating the threats.

Why Paterno was fired and McQueary remains employed is one of the scandal's great puzzles.

McQueary attended State College Area High School before playing quarterback at Penn State from 1994-97. In 1997, he was a co-captain, started and led the team to the Citrus Bowl. After attempting a professional career with the Oakland Raiders and NFL's Europe's Scottish Claymores, McQueary returned to Penn State in 2000 as a graduate assistant.

Ron Pavlechko, McQueary's football coach at State College Area High School, declined Friday to comment on anything regarding McQueary.

After that night in 2002 when McQueary came upon Sandusky and the boy with his hands pressed against the wall in the showers, the indictment said McQueary "left immediately, distraught."

McQueary called his father, John, then, left the Lasch Football Building. The next morning McQueary visited Paterno's modest home near campus and told the coach what he witnessed. Paterno, in turn, passed the information to then-athletic director Tim Curley.

A week and a half later, the indictment said, Curley and Gary Shultz, then Penn State's vice president for finance and business, met with McQueary and repeated what he saw in the showers.

The two men told McQueary they informed The Second Mile, the charity Sandusky founded in 1977 to help troubled boys, of the incident and took away Sandusky's keys to the locker room. McQueary's reaction isn't mentioned in the indictment.

No one told police.

The grand jury's investigation of Sandusky began in 2009; McQueary testified in December of 2010.

Paterno was fired for not reporting his conversation with McQueary to police, sparking students to riot downtown late Wednesday night.

Erickson declined to further explain McQueary's status Friday and clarify if his continued employment is connected to being an eyewitness in the case against Sandusky.

Not far away, wind whipped bits of snow around the campus as the Lasch Football Building sat cold, solemn and unmovable.

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