Penn State Child-Sex Scandal Shows Wider Problem, Seton Hall Poll Finds

Almost half of Americans surveyed say the Penn State University child sex-abuse scandal reveals a larger problem in college athletics, according to the Seton Hall Sports Poll.

The survey, conducted this week by Seton Hall University’s Sharkey Institute, found that 48 percent of those questioned said the allegations of abuse and cover-up at the State College, Pennsylvania-based school point to broader issues.

The poll didn’t specify whether respondents believed the larger problem was sex abuse, child sex abuse or inaction by universities to respond to allegations of crime and other wrongdoing.

“People are looking for some authority figure to solve this problem,” Rick Gentile, director of the South Orange, New Jersey-based poll, said today in a telephone interview. “Generally people are not happy with the way college athletics are run.”

Jerry Sandusky, a 67-year-old former assistant football coach at Penn State, is charged by Pennsylvania authorities with 40 counts of molesting eight boys in a period from 1994 to 2009. He has denied wrongdoing.

Joe Paterno, 84, who won a record 409 games as Penn State’s coach, was fired and Graham B. Spanier, 63, was removed as the university’s president by the Board of Trustees for inaction after word of possible assaults became known in 2002.

Both Spanier and Paterno were informed of a case regarding Sandusky and a boy in the shower of the Penn State football building and didn’t report it to the police, according to a presentation by a state grand jury.

Officials Charged

Athletic Director Tim Curley and Senior Vice President Gary Schultz were charged with perjury and failure to report the allegations. They have denied the charges.

Of the 942 respondents in Seton Hall’s nationwide telephone poll, 34 percent said they believed the Penn State case was an isolated situation and 17 percent either said they didn’t know or declined to answer. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.

In addition, 64 percent of those polled believe that universities should do more to monitor their athletic departments, while 19 percent said the institutions are already doing enough and 17 percent said they didn’t know.

The poll found that 53 percent of Americans believe that the university is responsible for having allowed alleged abuse on its premises, while 27 percent felt the school had no accountability. In addition, 55 percent felt that Paterno should have been dismissed immediately, and 80 percent believed that the team deserved to finish its season.

The Nittany Lions, with assistant coach Tom Bradley succeeding Paterno on an interim basis, went 1-2 after the coach’s dismissal and finished the regular season 9-3.

To contact the reporters on this story: Eben Novy-Williams in New York at enovywilliam@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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