Andy Geiger sat in his Port Angeles, Wash., home Monday night shaking with anger.
Retired after a 30-year career as athletic director at Maryland, Pennsylvania, Stanford and Ohio State, Geiger read the 23-page grand jury indictment of retired Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky and its graphic, detailed accounts of his sexual assaults on children.
Geiger couldn’t escape the “weird feeling” he could have hired Sandusky, now charged with 40 counts of sex abuse of eight boys, as Maryland’s football coach.
“This is the worst thing I’ve ever seen,” Geiger said in a telephone interview. “I’m sitting in my living room shaking I’m so appalled.”
In 1991, Geiger spoke with Sandusky, then Penn State’s well-regarded defensive coordinator, as part of a wide-ranging coach search. Later, Maryland talked to Sandusky in 1996 and Virginia interviewed him in 2000.
The Cavaliers were very interested in hiring Sandusky. He interviewed twice at Virginia to replace George Welsh. Then-Virginia president John Casteen and athletic director Terry Holland also met the coach in Pennsylvania. But according to a decade-old story from the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Casteen, Holland, and others involved with the search were concerned about Sandusky’s commitment to coaching because of his involvement with a charity called Second Mile that he founded in 1977 to work with troubled boys.
The organization’s slogan is “providing children with help and hope.” The grand jury indictment unfolds Sandusky’s abuse of boys he met through the charity.
Eight of Sandusky’s 40 charges of sexually abusing boys occurred in 1996, nine more happened in 2000, according to the case’s docket.
“I’m a very complex person,” Sandusky told the Times-Dispatch in the decade-old story. “I couldn’t deny the importance of Second Mile in my life. I could have played a game and said I was something different than I am, but that’s not me.”
Andre Collins, a former All-American at Penn State who played for the Redskins from 1990 to 1994, said he’s saddened to find out Sandusky may be something different than the man he credits for “my life after football and putting me where I am today.” Collins is the director of retired players for the NFLPA.
“This is a very sad situation,” Collins said. “My first thoughts are for the victims. I just feel awful that any family has to go through that. If these allegations are proven, he fooled us all … speaking for myself, there was no inclination of anything like this.”
Holland, now East Carolina’s athletic director, didn’t return an email seeking comment.
Casteen, who retired as Virginia’s president in 2010 after 20 years in the position, was traveling, “heavily scheduled,” and “not able to find a time” to speak about Sandusky, according to his assistant.
Back in 1991, Sandusky didn’t leave a distinctive impression with Geiger after their conversation. There weren’t indications of Sandusky’s off-field behavior, Geiger said. And Sandusky was “never close” to a job offer. But time has clouded Geiger’s memory of whether Sandusky withdrew or Maryland wasn’t interested.
But Geiger is aghast Sandusky remained employed by Penn State and coach Joe Paterno until the assistant retired following the 1999 season to focus on the Second Mile charity. Geiger, who retired at Ohio State in 2005, noted assistant coaches serve at the pleasure of their head coach, not the athletic director.
“It’s ridiculous,” Geiger said. “Obviously, the guy was rehired every year by the head coach. It’s the head coach’s responsibility. And the athletic director and president should have had oversight.
“To gloss over the head coach is unconscionable,” Geiger said. “In the name of all decency, Penn State should open [Sandusky’s records] up. This is not something to duck and hide from.”
Paterno’s news conference in State College, Pa., on Tuesday afternoon was canceled by the university shortly before it was scheduled to begin. Paterno also didn’t appear on the weekly Big Ten coaches’ teleconference.
Sandusky’s name surfaced again in 1996 during Maryland’s football coach search when Debbie Yow was athletic director. Yow, now at N.C. State in the same position, remembered a phone conversation with Sandusky about the job described as a “brief encounter.” Again, she made no job offer. Beyond that, Yow declined via email to “revisit history of 15 years ago.”
In Washington state, Geiger, however, couldn’t escape thoughts of the man who could have been Maryland’s football coach.
“This is not a tattoo,” said Geiger, referring to the memorabilia-for-tattoos scandal at Ohio State. “This is real life.”