...and the vultures swoop in, right on cue.

I know a lot of people on here don't like Dan Wetzel. I'm not one of them; I think his analysis has been pretty fair and grounded in solid facts, at least for the most part. But today's column is way out of line.

For those of you who don't know already, the public focus of the scandal has shifted back to JoePa with the release of certain e-mails between Curley, Schultz and Spanier. In one e-mail Curley makes reference to a conversation with Joe:

"After giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe yesterday, I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps. I am having trouble with going to everyone but the person involved. I would be more comfortable meeting with the person and tell them about the information we received and tell them we are aware of the first situation."

That's it. That's the only evidence we have of what Joe might have known, or the role he might have played, in the university's actions. He and Tim Curley had a conversation, and after that conversation, Curley voiced an objection to the three's plan to go directly to CYS with their information.

That being said, we have no idea of what the content of that conversation was. As I have said in prior comments, it's possible that Curley told Joe things that should have alerted him to the fact that the Sandusky matter wasn't being handled properly. Worse yet, Joe could have said some things that led to the Sandusky matter being handled improperly. But, it's equally possible that Curley made up his mind on his own to not involve authorities, that he gave Joe some version of the story that made that decision seem reasonable, and got Joe's approval to proceed accordingly. Hell, it's equally possible that Curley didn't discuss the matter in any great detail with Joe, and Joe simply told Curley that he trusted Curley's judgment to do what is right.

All of those conversations fit equally well into Curley's statement that he "talk[ed] it over with Joe yesterday." In fact, given Joe's prior statements that he didn't get involved because he a) wasn't sure how the matter should be handled, and b) he didn't want to be seen as influencing the university's procedures, either in favor of Sandusky or against him, I'm more inclined to think that any input Joe gave Curley was neutral and deferential.

Dan Wetzel thinks otherwise:

According to Curley's email, Paterno participated more than he ever admitted, including likely talking Curley – and thus the others – out of the plan to turn Sandusky over to authorities.

Take a second for that one to sink in.

It is now perfectly reasonable to postulate that Joe Paterno protected Jerry Sandusky, who had been a Penn State assistant coach from 1969 until retiring in 1999.

Dan Wetzel is wrong. Yes, the explanation he gives here is one possible explanation; there is no reason to think that it is the likely explanation. It is perfectly reasonable to consider the possibility that Joe protected Sandusky; it is NOT perfectly reasonable to postulate that it is so.

I want to know as much as possible about the conversation between Curley and Paterno. The substance of that conversation will go a long way towards giving us the information we need to pass final judgment on Joe's role in this whole mess. On one extreme end of the spectrum, Curley could have been all gung ho to drag Sandusky into the local CYS office by the collar, but Joe demanded that Sandusky remained protected. On the other end of the spectrum, Curley could have told Joe that he looked into McQueary's allegations, and it turned out that Jerry didn't do anything wrong, but they were still going to talk to Jerry about the incident and how it made McQueary uncomfortable, while Joe simply replied by saying he trusted Curley's judgment to do the right thing. The truth is probably somewhere in between the two, but closer to the latter.

Curley will no doubt testify about this conversation at his trial. He might tell the truth, he might not. But at least then we'll have SOMETHING on which to base our judgment of Joe. Right now, we have virtually nothing.

But if Wetzel's article is any indication, the public will once again rush to judgment of Joe. Eight months ago, they condemned him for not "following up" when no one know for sure whether he did or not. Now, we have evidence that Joe followed up not only with Curley, but also with McQueary. It's possible that the nature of that follow up will condemn him; it's equally possible that the nature of that follow up will exonerate him. But either way, I don't think we'll find out until the public has already made up its mind.

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