STATE COLLEGE, Pa. In the wake of the fall from grace of legendary football coach Joe Paterno, the largest outcry from Penn State detractors as well as defenders is centered on wide receivers coach Mike McQueary.
Just how has McQueary been able to keep his job when he was an eye-witness to the alleged scene in the Lasch Football Building shower in which former coach Jerry Sandusky was performing a sex act on a young child in 2002?
McQueary was 28 when he allegedly saw Sandusky sexually assaulting a young boy in the shower of the football building on Penn State's campus. The grand jury report says the former Penn State quarterback was distraught after witnessing the alleged assault, according to the report, and fled the building. He reportedly went home to call his father and then reported the incident to Paterno the next day.
Paterno, in turn, reported McQuearys allegations to Gary Schultz, the senior vice president for finance and business, who oversaw the Universitys police department. Schultz, according to the grand jury findings, did not tell his police department Paternos report from McQueary.
Since Paterno was fired, Penn State officials have been rather cryptic when talking about McQueary and his future as a coach of the football team. Interim head coach Tom Bradley said there was never a consideration to remove McQueary as a coach for this Saturdays game at Beaver Stadium against No. 18 Nebraska. Additionally, Penn State Board of Trustees chairman Steve Garban did not comment when asked about McQueary during the raucous press conference announcing Paternos ouster.
As such, McQueary is the only member of the athletic staff involved in the 2002 incident that has kept his job.
He is a witness, Garban said.
But what kind of a witness is he? Many attorneys with knowledge of similar situations speculate that McQueary is a protected witness, perhaps even a witness with whistleblower status.
John H. May Esq., a former assistant district attorney and prosecutor for the Lancaster County, Pa. Sexual Assault Unit says the situation involving McQueary very well could be a whistleblower case. After all, at the time of the 2002 incident, McQueary was a graduate assistant and would be protected.
Another attorney with a decade of experience in investigating child sex-abuses cases says McQueary is absolutely a classic whistleblower witness.
What is a whistleblower witness? According to the Whistleblower Protection Act, it is a federal law that protects federal whistleblowers who work for the government and quasi-government agencies to report misconduct. If McQueary is a whistleblower, he is protected from any kind of adverse employment action. That means he cannot be fired, demoted, ostracized or punished.
McQueary was set to coach Saturdays game from the press box as opposed to the sidelines until multiple threats against him forced Penn State officials to keep the coach from the stadium this weekend.
McQueary has not spoken to the press since the story broke, though his father, John, says he very much would like to. In fact, John McQueary told reporters that he would very much like to discuss his and his sons role in the scandal, but have been advised not to.
That statement led some to speculate that McQueary could be a protected witness.
McQueary was a quarterback for Paterno from 1994 to 1997. He was the starter for the 97 team that went 9-3 and won the Citrus Bowl and set a school record by throwing for 360 yards in his first game as a starter. He also was the quarterback at State College High School and teammates with Jon Sandusky, the son of Jerry Sandusky. Known as a vocal coach and player, McQueary tried out for the Oakland Raiders after leaving Penn State. He also spent a season playing for the Scottish Claymores in NFL Europe. In 2000, McQueary returned to Penn State as a graduate assistant.
E-mail John R. Finger at email@example.com