Why Did Jerry Sandusky Retire in 1999?


Author’s Note: This blog, obviously, is devoted to the Milwaukee Bucks. But since it’s the only blog for which I write, and since I also feel compelled to pen this piece before you, I’m submitting it below. If you only want to see stuff about the Bucks here, feel free to ignore it.

In my lifetime, only a handful of NCAA football assistant coaches have ever registered any real traction in my memory.  I can recall Barry Alvarez coaching the D at Notre Dame, Jerry Sandusky doing the same at Penn State, Norm Chow steamrolling the USC offense through opponents, and Bobby Bowden’s longtime assistant, Mickey Andrews.

Eventually, Chow left for the NFL, Andrews went out after a long run with Bowden, and Alvarez got a head coaching job at Wisconsin.  Sandusky became an unpaid assistant at a high school.  I never could make sense about why Sandusky left early, before Paterno did.  I still can’t. 


In July 1999, Jerry Sandusky announced that he would retire from his defensive coordinator role with Penn State after the 1999 season, his 32nd with the team.  At the time, the Nittany Lions were considered one of the top teams in the country — defenders Courtney Brown and Lavar Arrington were later selected with the #1 and #2 picks in the 2000 NFL draft — and some preseason polls had Penn State pegged as a championship favorite.  At the time, many considered it a surprising decision.

While some might have questioned that type of move, perhaps Sandusky thought that he would do well to leave the profession on top at the same time as his star upperclassmen departed.  When asked his reasons for retiring, Sandusky noted that he wanted to spend more time with his charity, The Second Mile, a nonprofit organization that he founded in 1977 for the purpose of providing early intervention to vulnerable children.  In hindsight, his words have a painful sting.

Excerpt from Toledo Blade, July 2, 1999

But why would Sandusky retire at the top of his profession?  Why would he walk away from a four-decades-long career before ascending to the top job, especially when it could soon be vacated by his 72-year-old boss?  And why would he do it before the season, before seeing how the year played out? Admittedly, it makes no sense to question the motives of a person whose sensibilities were as devious as Sandusky’s, but then, from that line of reasoning, wouldn’t Sandusky want to keep his position at Penn State, if his bowl trips and access to the locker rooms were among the perks used to tempt the victims?

The grand jury report contains telling clues in this regard. Evidently, Sandusky had gotten a push out the door from Paterno.  In the grand jury report, one of Sandusky’s alleged victims testified that Paterno informed Sandusky that he would never be getting that top job.  His head coaching aspirations were nixed by Paterno two months prior to the retirement press conference.



Given his surprising willingness to stymy his top aide, one whose prodigious talents drove the Penn State program to the pinnacle of its sport, the questions naturally shift to Paterno.

If Paterno had the best defense in college football, and if he had been coaching in State College for nearly half a century, then why he make a point out of telling his defensive assistant of 30+ years that he was not qualified to take over for you at some point?  Sandusky had been good enough for three decades and had driven Penn State within arms’ reach of another title shot — why did Paterno have to let him down just then?

Paterno froze out Sandusky — and Sandusky subsequently retired — about a year after the first local investigation into Sandusky’s deviant acts.  In 1998, he got caught after preying upon an 11-year-old victim in the locker room after returning him to his mother.



So the University Police found Sandusky performing naked bear hugs from behind with, not one, but TWO different 11-year-olds and decided that criminal charges were not necessary.  The detective on the case was told to close the case by his police chief and the local district attorney.

The information bears repeating:  the founder of a children’s nonprofit exploited his access to those same children and got caught making naked sexual advances to two of them.  Then the case was dropped.

Is there any possible scenario in which this dropped case wasn’t a huge coverup?

If the district attorney did find that he had insufficient evidence, wasn’t there, at the very least, a need to investigate further — perhaps a more detailed look into The Second Mile, for example, particularly among youths fitting the victims’ profile?  (The whole thing smells extremely fishy, even without taking into account the disappearance of the D.A. and the destruction of his hard drives.)

So a 55-year-old coach just walked away from high-profile coaching to become an unpaid assistant at a high school.  Forget 2002, three years after Sandusky retired, and forget the incident where Mike McQueary walked in on Sandusky in the act of raping a child, then reported it to his daddy and his boss — but, most notably, not the police (although the local police were, as described above, years into knowing about this sort of thing.)  Paterno at that point HAD to already know what was going on.  Just connect the dots.

It’s why he showed Sandusky the door in 1999.

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Tags: Jerry Sandusky Joe Paterno Penn State

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