Michael Haynes on Joe Paterno Pleading Ignorance: “He knew something was going on. He knew something was odd.”November 10, 2011 – 5:00 am by Steven Cuce
Joe Paterno is out at Penn State. The Board of Trustees announced late Wednesday night that both Paterno and PSU president Graham Spanier had been fired, effective immediately. The fallout from the child sexual abuse scandal involving Penn State has become a moment in history that no one will ever forget.
This is not a story about a college football program. This is about life. Vulnerable children were taken advantage of while in a position of trust. The allegations against Jerry Sandusky are sickening to say the very least and even the slightest hint that Joe Paterno was aware of what was going and did the bare minimum has the public outraged. Rightfully so.
Michael Haynes is a former first round pick of the Chicago Bears in 2003. Haynes played defensive end for Paterno and Sandusky. Let’s hear what he had to say about the awful mess that has come about in Happy Valley.
[Editor's Note: This interview occurred hours before the Penn State Board of Trustees decided to remove Joe Paterno of his head coaching duties]
Michael Haynes joined ESPN Radio Chicago with Waddle and Silvy to discuss his initial response when he heard the entire situation unfolding at Penn State, his opinion of Joe Paterno changing as more information came to light, Joe Paterno still being in control of the football program at his age, wanting Joe Paterno to step down as head coach, reaching out to former teammates when he heard the news unfolding at Penn State, Jerry Sandusky being around the Penn State program this summer, being a player on Penn State when the allegations occurred in 2002, any warning signs of Sandusky allegedly sexually abusing underprivileged kids while he was a member of the Penn State team in 2002, being mad at Mike McQueary for not calling the police, McQueary still being a member of the Penn State coaching staff and believing Paterno should step down as head coach.
You have an interesting perspective Michael. You played at Penn State for Joe Paterno, and when Jerry Sandusky was still a coach. But your also a high school coach who works with at risk kids in Texas. So when you heard this what was your response?
“Clearly my initial response was shock. How can somebody, anybody abuse a kid? Let alone, someone you hold in such a high regards. It’s just absolutely shocking. I mean its devastating, obviously he [Sandusky] knows. I’m sure the kids and families, my hearts go out to them. Because I would never want that on anybody.”
Has this changed your opinion on Joe Paterno and Penn State, and how you felt about going there?
“You know what, it definitely changes your opinion on Paterno. Really how can I not? Even if he’s saying he didn’t know all the full details. When you start putting all the pieces together it makes it very difficult argument. Especially for him trying to defend himself.”
Was Paterno detatched, more of a figurehead even when you were there? Or was Paterno more hands on, and in complete control of the program?
“Oh Paterno I think even to this day he’s extremely hands on. I think he knows what’s going on in his program. And thats why for me and a lot of other guys – and the ones that I talk to – find it extremely shocking that he didn’t know. He knew something was going on. He knew something was odd.”
When you heard this news, did you reach out to any of your former teammates and just say what is going on?
“Oh yeah. In fact I was up there during training camp this year. So I actually took time off of high school season to go up there and work with the defensive lineman, and work with coach [Larry] Johnson. And I saw Coach Paterno after he had his incident up there at practice. So I’m still very active up there. Just the fact that everything was going on, is just extremely disturbing.”
Was Jerry Sandusky around the program, even this past summer when you were there?
“You know what I really didn’t see him. I was up there doing a couple speaking engagements, and just enjoying being around practice and working with coach Johnson. You know so I didn’t see him. But here’s the thing, investigations like this don’t happen overnight. This is a long time coming. And really talking with people that have access. There is some stories going around where even back in the day, in 1998 or 1999 something was strange was going on. And if you look at Penn States past, traditionally coaches don’t leave Penn State. Traditionally once you get on staff, you stay there. If you look at 1999, and 2000 remember Al Golden was briefly head coach of Penn State for a little bit, then he left. You also had coach [Brian] Norwood who’s now at Baylor, and he left, shortly there after. So all of the sudden, we have a lot of dramatic turnover for a couple of years.”
So you were there when Jerry Sandusky retired?
“Correct. Which everybody was shocked that he retired. Everybody kind of assumed that Jerry Sandusky would be the next head coach. So when he retired a lot of people were shocked. But no one really questioned it. Some people thought maybe him and Joe got into it. There were a lot of speculation at that time, on why he was retiring. But a lot of it seemed to be he was tired of waiting around for Joe to retire. That was everybody’s initial thought process. But now that all this other stuff has come up, do you remember the first allegation was what in 1998? Then he turns around and retires in 1999. So that’s suspect, right? And then all of the sudden [Mike] McQueary was a G.A. in 2002, and then he’s on the staff in 2003.”
You were there in 2002 when all of this happened? Correct?
“Exactly, and there is nothing that disturbs a lot of people who were playing at that time. Everybody in my initial class, is beyond upset and disgusted about the entire situation. Because lets be honest, I’m sure those kids were around us because Sandusky always had those underprivileged kids around. Because of the nature of the program.”
So it was assumed that Jerry Sandusky was just helping underprivileged kids?
“Why would you not [assume]?”
There was no sign, that could have raised your radar to what was going on?
“Here’s one of those things, you have to remember those first few years I was with him I was a red shirt freshman, still trying to figure out what I’m doing in college. My second year I was a defensive lineman. So I was under coach Johnson, so I had very little interaction with Sandusky. It’s more of a linebackers question. Because him being a linebacker coach, he dealt with them more on a daily basis than any other position. So really those two years, I was so worried about “Let me make sure coach Johnson is happy. And let me make sure I was doing what I was supposed to do.” And whenever those at risk kids were around because let’s be honest, a lot of players have some kind of troubled past. I was a troubled kid growing up. So for me it was just reaching out to those kids, saying hey get your grades in order. Being one of those type of figures to them, just assuming. I mean those kids would be there every summer, we would constantly see those kids.”
Are you mad at Mike McQueary after hearing what he said to the Grand Jury? What should he have done?
“I’m beyond pissed. What should he have done? There are so many thoughts that enter my mind, what do you do when you see something illegal, immoral just all of those things wrapped in one. The first thing you got to do is intervene. Even if he freaked out at the initial act, and said ‘Oh my God, I don’t know what to do?’ You have to call the cops. There is really no gray area, from a moral standpoint. Not you have to talk to your superiors. I don’t care. When you see something illegal, you call the police.”
What do you think of him [Mike McQueary] being a member of the Penn State Program?
“There in lies the one of the problems. So you saw this, you didn’t report it, and you’re all of a sudden on the staff. You know it’s hard to get a division one coaching job. It’s extremely difficult. So this falls on the conspiracy pile. And since then, all of the sudden he’s part of the [coaching] staff?
Do you believe that Joe Paterno should step down right now?
“Yeah. I think eventually it’ll be taken out of his hands. I think that the board of trustees are still discussing, what’s the right thing to do. Because definitely from a legal standpoint, did Joe do what he’s supposed to do? Yeah. But let’s be honest. Penn State is known for going above and beyond having extremely high moral values. That’s something that they have an issue. Clearly they did not do the right thing. What do they do morally? So here’s the thing, if you’re going to replace the President of the university, the A.D. stepped down, and all these people are stepping down Paterno is still there. It’s just a hard thing. For me it’s are you bad mouthing Paterno, he gave you all these opportunities. Well yeah, because I’m holding him up to the same high standards I would hold anybody else. So because he’s at Penn State and because he gave me a scholarship, and opened up a lot of doors for me and other athletes. The fact is we hold him to the highest standard.”