It's one of the biggest — if not the biggest — scandals to ever hit college sports, and a Boston attorney who represented 400 victims of priest sex abuse says the sexual abuse crisis swirling around Pennsylvania State University is eerily similar to the scandal within the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston.
"I was nearly despondent when I saw all this, because I said, well, what good did all those cases do?" attorney Jeff Newman told WBUR's Steve Brown.
Penn State announced Wednesday night it had terminated iconic football coach Joe Paterno amidst charges that a longtime assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, sexually abused eight boys. When Paterno learned of one allegation in 2002, he reported it to a superior but allegedly did not take the concerns any further. No one at the university forwarded the complaint to police. Sandusky allegedly continued abusing boys in a special youth program that used Penn State athletic facilities.
"Penn State has always strived for honesty, integrity and the highest moral standards in all of our activities," said John Surma, vice president of Penn State's board of trustees, during a Wednesday night news conference announcing the termination of Paterno and university President Graham Spanier. "We promise you that we are committed to restoring public trust to our university."
Following the announcement, Penn State students held a raucous protest against Paterno's firing. Newman said he was shocked both by the students' behavior and the trustees not mentioning alleged sexual abuse or alleged victims in their public statements.
"It was both outrageous and so upsetting to me because having represented all these individuals and seen what I hoped to be an evolution, I've seen nothing in this that has changed whatsoever," Newman said. "When things happen and it butts up against big money, certainly big money sports, there are certain institutions that seem to be living in the Dark Ages. There's a different standard."
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This program aired on November 10, 2011.