A well-known university hides a dirty secret in the bowels of its football program.
| REAL MEN PLAY FOOTBALL
An array of awards adorned the halls of Pine State’s athletic center. Large flags from the National Collegiate Athletic Association proclaimed championships in the Big Ten football conference three times since 1959. Numerous trophies filled glass cases, jerseys worn by nationally known football stars hung from the ceiling, posters depicting memorable moments were encased in frames festooned with team logos and hung along the walls of a long hallway; and in large font the letters “PSP! Pine State Pride!” stood proudly over the doorway at the end of the hall that led to the football workout rooms, lockers and offices.
Assistant coach Kyle Quinn walked the halls on this Saturday afternoon. One of the posters on the wall showed him holding up a championship trophy the team won when he played quarterback in 1997. This day like every other day he walked by that poster, he kissed his finger and touched the frame whispering aloud to himself, “Looking Good, Dude.”
Humming the school’s fight song and snapping his fingers, Quinn made his way to his office in the football coaches section.
“I love this place,” he whispered into the air.
Walking past the locker rooms he could hear shower water running and male voices. One voice sounded fatherly giving terse commands as the other voice sounded fearfully accommodating.
As he got closer he could make out what was being said. He recognized the voice of defensive coach Rory Jerusky; the other voice was noticeably a teenaged boy.
Quinn became a little suspicious because of the tone of the dialogue between the two. It did not sound good.
“I said stand there and don’t move,” Jerusky said. “You’ll never be a Pine State linebacker if you act scared all the time.”
“But coach…this ain’t right, is it?” the boy said voice shaking.
“Just stand there.”
Quinn looked into the shower to see Jerusky standing next to the boy with his left arm around his shoulder. They were both nude. Jerusky was fondling the boy’s penis with his right hand which was soaped into a lather. Quinn turned to walk away when the boy called out to him.
Jerusky’s head snapped up.
“Quiet!” he said sharply as he let go and moved away.
“Uh, hi coach,” Quinn said. He knew Jerusky was no one to fool with. At six and a half feet tall, heavily muscled and known to have a temper, Jerusky often struck fear into the hearts of his players and opponents.
Jerusky grabbed two towels hanging on the wall, threw one to the boy and quickly wrapped himself in the other.
The boy quickly walked past both men and started to jog over to the locker rooms. Quinn could hear him crying.
“You better listen to what I said. You’ll never make it as a linebacker on my team if you act scared,” Jerusky barked to the boy’s back.
He turned and slapped Quinn hard on his shoulder almost knocking him backward.
“These kids don’t even know how to wash themselves. I had to show him how to use soap… cripes!” Jerusky said as he walked away. He held no fear of what Quinn might say or do.
Quinn left the locker area and started walking toward his office. Feeling a little dazed he bumped into a janitor named Ralph. He nodded a wordless apology and tried to keep walking. Ralph did not move out of his way and got his attention.
“Hi coach,” Ralph said looking Quinn in the face. Although he saw Ralph numerous times over the years working around the football facility, he never really exchanged with him in anyway. He did not know what to expect.
“Hello,” he said motioning to continue his path.
“You saw him, didn’t you?”
No answer came from Quinn.
“Well, I can tell you I saw him a lot of times over the last twenty years bringing boys into this place. I tried to tell everyone I could including the police and they would always tell me they would take care of it. They never did. I think they ignored me. I mean, who wants to mess with a Pine State football coach. He’s a god, right?”
“Excuse me,” Quinn said as he walked around Ralph.
“I hope you say something,” Ralph said to his back. “These kids are getting raped in here and he’s getting away with it. Stop thinking about the football team and start thinking about the kids. It‘s a disgrace!”
Quinn did not take Ralph’s banter as an attack but more as a cry for help. He heard what he said loud and clear.
When he got home later that evening he could no longer tolerate the sour feeling in his gut. Ralph was right. He himself saw many similar instances with coach Jerusky but always turned his head and kept walking. And, everybody on that team including head coach Pat Gioperno did the same.
He needed guidance and decided to call his father.
“Dad,” he said.
“Hey Carrot Top, what’s up,” said Paul Quinn. A retired policeman his father was the very proud parent of a successful football star and enjoyed with that all of the replete amenities, attention, interviews, invites, etc. However, he always looked at the coaches with some scrutiny. He did not trust anyone whom he called “untouchable.”
“OK, well, I have a question.”
“If you saw coach Jerusky fondling a teenage boy in the showers at the football facility… would you tell anyone?”
“You heard me. He was like jerking him off. The kid was crying and ran when I showed up.”
“Kyle, you’re thirty-two years old…you mean you don’t know?”
“Well, it’s not that simple. I could face trouble here and what about the football program?”
“How many times did you see him?”
“No other times.”
“Well, I think I always kind of thought he was being a little too friendly with these kids. He would always have one at his side at practice, he’d take them to games, banquets, you know. And, he always had his arm around them. You could always find them in the showers too.”
“Seriously? Didn’t anyone ask questions?”
“Nah…we’d all say ‘that’s Jerusky and one of his new bloods.’ Nobody even talked about him, like, molesting them. Hell, Jersuky’s a tough dude. Even Gioperno said he was the reason for the success of the football team and they‘ve been working together for forty freakin‘ years. Nobody ever said anything. One janitor told me he saw Jerusky many times over the years and tried to tell people and they all ignored him. ”
“Yeah. He’s so tough he preys on helpless boys. Let me break this down for you because my mind is racing. First, I can tell you from experience if he was molesting that kid, he’s done that to hundreds of victims.”
“Look, child molesters don’t start in their fifties. They do it their whole lives. And, they are insatiable.”
“What does that mean?”
“They can’t be satisfied.”
“Second, the football coaches and the school all knew about this problem and let it go because they didn’t want to stain their football images. Pine State would be a back woods community college if it wasn’t for Gioperno and the football program. Now it’s a multi-billion dollar enterprise. They are not going to risk losing all that.”
“Third, the kids he’s preyed on probably came from some inner city slums and are easy targets that nobody would believe if they came out. In fact, doesn’t he run that Third Kilometer place that helps inner city kids?”
“Well, guess what, it seems to me he’s been using that front to get his victims. Oh boy…I’m getting more and more disgusted!”
“Well here it is…you say something or I will. I mean it. I’ll go to the state police. So, I’ll leave it up to you to say something to expose this situation. I don’t want to make trouble for you Kyle, but I’m telling you, I will get on this if you don’t. And, that might cause you to have to do some explaining. OK?”
“Who do I tell? I mean, I can’t just…”
“You’re thirty two years old. Figure it out. Then let me know.”
“OK dad.” Quinn knew his father serious. He decided on Monday morning he would talk to coach Gioperno.
On Monday afternoon Quinn stood by his office door waiting for coach Gioperno. He knew the coach was approaching when he could hear several students audibly lavishing praise to “The Coach” from a distance.
“Pat Gioperno!” they all said in unison as they rhythmically clapped their hands to each syllable of his name.
He could hear Gioperno thanking them.
“You gonna beat Nebraska this week coach?” one young man shrieked.
“You betcha. Now go and study. Do your homework!” Gioperno said as he entered the football facility. “These parents send their kids to this campus to grow up and all they do is grow down. They’re unsupervised adolescents who get drunk and waste their time singing my name,” he said to himself shaking his head as he walked to his office.
Gioperno now in his seventies was the undisputed king of Pine State. Statues and portraits bearing his likeness do homage to him all over the campus. Buildings are decorated with his name, the school’s chapel displays the name of his wife, and retail items from clothing to cola to candy bars sold there and everywhere in Pennsylvania all claim to be “Pat’s Favorites.”
In the Italian Americans communities all over Pennsylvania, saying something derogatory about Gioperno would result in a punch in the face or at least a good argument. He regularly spoke at high level functions as a motivator and example of success. Jokes were told about how the Almighty Lord himself wore a t-shirt with PG on it so he could be Pat Gioperno.
The national media derides him frequently calling him only a marginally good coach who earned wins records because of a 42 year coaching career.
However, the one opinion everyone had in common was that he was an upstanding citizen, good father, great example and genuinely nice guy.
He enters his office to see Quinn standing there.
“What’s up Pete?” He always gets Quinn’s name wrong even after six years working together. “You have your schemes finished for Nebraska? I could use a win here.”
“Uh, hi coach. I need a little more time on my schemes. Anyway, I have something else I have to tell you and it’s not good.”
“What? Quarterback has a bad toe?”
“Well, I don’t know how to say this so I’m just going to say it. I saw coach Jerusky stroking off some boy in the shower. You know, playing with his penis.”
“You mean like jerkin’ him off, sexually?”
“Wait, are you sure? I want to be very specific. You saw him actually with his hands on this kid‘s dick, right?”
“Yes. He was, you know...” Quinn makes a stroking motion with his hand cuffed as if holding an invisible cylindrically shaped object.
“What do we do?”
“We don’t do anything. I’ll take care of this. You did your job by reporting it to me so go finish your schemes for Nebraska.”
“Thanks coach.” Quinn’s feeling of relief felt like a plunge in a pool on a hot day. He immediately told his father what he had done.
Three days later Gioperno was going through his notes and saw a reminder he wrote about calling the university’s athletic director about Jerusky.
“Well, I better call. I guess I won’t be getting his defensive schemes in time for Nebraska.”
He called the athletic director Dick Johnson who promptly answered.
“Hey Dick, it’s Gioperno.”
“Yeah coach, what’s going on? We gonna beat Nebraska?” Johnson said with childlike enthusiasm. As the athletic director of Pine State for the last twenty years, he rode the Gioperno train to a very high level of success.
“You betcha. Listen…I have to tell you something. It’s about Jerusky.”
“Well, it seems he’s molested some kid again.”
“What do you mean, molested.”
“He was fondling his penis…you know…like jerking him off in the football facility showers.”
“Wait now. We have to be very specific here. Are you saying he was stroking the boy’s penis? Like in a sexual way?”
“Yep. So what now?”
“Thanks coach…I’ll handle this,” Johnson said acting indignant as if mortified.
“You sure. I don’t want no trouble.”
“I’ll handle it. Oh, and beat Nebraska..PSP!”
Johnson immediately picked up the telephone to call the university president Span Brentyer. He and Brentyer had similar discussions about this subject several times over the last twenty years and both feared public exposure more than anything.
“Gioperno called me. He said someone reported to him about seeing Jerusky and some kid in the shower.”
“Oh crap! Again? What’s up with that dude? Is he stupid?”
“I guess. What do you want to do.”
“Well, first find out who the kid is and see how much it will take to keep the family silent. Knowing Jerusky, the kid is probably from some slum hole and one hundred grand will probably shut them up forever. Plus free tickets, tuition and other goodies of course,” Brentyer said.
“Did you ever think about the damage he might be doing to these kids?”
“Nah. You ever see the kids he brings here from that Third Kilometer thing he runs? They come from the filthiest slums on the East Coast. They probably even benefit because he takes care of them in other ways. Think about how most of them end up.”
“Okay, well I’ll see what I can find out. I’ll call Jerusky. Maybe I’ll tell him to knock of his crap!”
“Whatever. Hey! PSP- beat Nebraska! Right?”
“Say it…PSP, beat Nebraska.”
“This time with more enthusiasm or I’m going to start wondering if you really like your job or not!”
“PSP…BEAT NEBRASKA! BEAT NEBRASKA! PSP!”
As if on cue, immediately after hanging up Johnson got a page from his secretary.
“There’s a reporter from EPSN on the telephone for you,” said secretary Brenda Toogood.
Oh no, he thought, not another jock sniffer.
“What does he want Brenda?”
“He said something about coach Jerusky. Do you want to talk to him?”
He told her with dread to send the call to his voice mail. He listened to the message as it was given.
“Mr. Johnson, how are you? I’m JoJo Baldician from EPSN. The reason I’m calling is because there is a report from the state police barracks in Bellefonte alleging sexual misconduct by one of your coaches and we’d like to ask you some questions. Do you know anything about this? Does the university have a statement to make? Please give me a call at your earliest convenience at 570-290-9791. Thank you.”
Shocked he sat there for a minute pondering the complexities of this time bomb. “Maybe I better do something,” Johnson said to himself as he dialed Jerusky’s phone.
“Coach Jerusky,” he answered after one ring as if anticipating the call.
“Hello coach, this is Dick Johnson.”
“Uh, well coach, I hate to bother you about this but I think we need to talk. Can you come over to my office?”
“Look…I’m busy, okay? I’m working on the defensive schemes for Nebraska and I can’t just walk away. Why don’t you come down to my office?” Jerusky said in his well known and accepted boorishness.
“Okay coach. I’ll be there in about 15 minutes,” Johnson said totally emasculated.
“Yep,” Jerusky said as he hung up the phone.
When Johnson got to Jerusky’s office he had already rehearsed his conversation expecting a very confrontational exchange from Jerusky. He was not disappointed.
Standing over Jerusky who sat at his desk and did not raise his head to acknowledge his arrival, Johnson cleared his throat and said hello.
“Yep. What’s on your mind there AD?” Jerusky asked turning and swinging in his chair with his fingers locked behind his head.
“Well, I don’t know how to say this so I’m just going to say it.”
“Somebody called me and said a report was made to the state police claiming you performed acts of sexual misconduct on minors while here at the university’s football facility.”
“What kind of acts?”
“Well, like fondling some teenage boys.”
“Fondling? Be more specific.”
“Like massaging their penises.”
“You mean masturbating them?”
“Yes, you know…stroking them into an ejaculation.”
Jerusky stood up facing Johnson. Towering over him he grabbed Johnson’s shoulders and squeezed them hard. Johnson grunted slightly from losing his breath.
“Let me tell you something, Johnson. That crap you’re talking about is for little perverted men. Real men don’t fondle little boys, we play football! You got that?”
Johnson looked up at him startled by his aggression.
“Well, all I can tell you is you may be getting some calls from the police. We may be able to help you if you want us to.”
“I’m a real man! Got it!” Jerusky said as he sat back down in his chair and started perusing over his drawings. “Unless you got anything else, I have some Nebraska planning to do.”
Johnson backed away and started his way back to his office. He did not have a good feeling about Jerusky. In fact, he saw guilt in that real man’s face. The question he faced now was how to handle it so the university and its football program doesn’t suffer. He decided he better notify Brentyer.
When he got back to his office there was a message on his voice mail from Brentyer demanding he call as soon as possible.
Dialing with trepidation, he mind raced with all the potential implications of a child abuse sex scandal. As the athletic director he knew he would have some explaining to do about his lack of knowledge or action. The conundrum in his mind existed because he did have some knowledge and he knew he took no action to help the kids. He chased those thoughts.
Brentyer answered his phone tersely knowing who was on the line.
“Listen Johnson, you need to meet me off campus ASAP at my hunting cabin in Toftrees. Okay?“
When they met they sat at the kitchen table and got right down to business.
“That stuff we were talking about earlier about Jerusky. Well, did you share it with anyone like the state police or EPSN? I got a call…” Brentyer said looking uncharacteristically sophomoric and scared.
“I know Span. They called me too. I was working on it.”
“I started with talking to Jerusky who denies everything and won’t even discuss it.”
Brentyer slapped the table in frustration. “That’s no help. Look, just between you and me…if they find out we’ve been paying off people to keep them silent or if we’ve just been sweeping this under the rug…we’re screwed. You and me! We could be considered parties to a child rape ring.”
“Somebody has to take the hit on this. Who?”
They both thought for a second.
“Gioperno,” Brentyer said. “Send a blurb out there that Gioperno was somehow protecting Jerusky to maintain his win record. The man is in his seventies and has been coaching here for five decades…he’s had enough fun. Plus, EPSN hates him. They like young tough-guy coaches, not old family men like Gioperno. It’s our only chance.”
“Isn’t that risky?”
“You got any better ideas?” Right at that moment Brentyer’s phone alerts him of a text message. It was from his secretary. It said Gioperno was rushed to the hospital after taking a massive heart attack.
“This is perfect,” Brentyer said.
“Gioperno is in the hospital. Maybe he won’t come out. Either way, he won’t be able to defend himself. Do what I said. It’s so believable…let’s face it he’s the head coach and one of his top assistants is raping boys right under his nose. It’s our best chance to get cleared.”
“He reported something to me the other day and…”
“It’s too late. Use some angle that emphasizes Jerusky has been doing this since the seventies. You understand? I know you have friends in the media. Get busy on this Johnson. It’s serious.”
Both Brentyer and Johnson acted devastated publicly when Gioperno died. Both men knew without saying it to each other his death was a great relief to them. Who better to blame than someone who could not defend themselves.
Even the Gioperno family could not truly dispel any accusations against the coach since those accusations were based on conjecture. They repeatedly said Gioperno died at peace with a clear conscience. However, subtle hints leaked out on a weekly basis through the university’s football media networks left doubts in the public’s mind.
At a press conference where a new coach was hired, Brentyer gave a moving eulogy to Gioperno and what he had done for the university.
With Johnson at his side he ended his speech with “PSP! Pine State Proud!”
Paul Quinn watched in disgust. He recently hired on as a private consultant for the families of the victims to help dig into what really happened at Pine State. His reports to the state police seemed to have somehow been quashed. He intended to make sure they can not continue to be ignored to preserve Pine State football.