Every mind must make its choice between truth and repose. It cannot have both.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Mike McQueary was living his dream. A Pennsylvania State College kid who quarterbacked the Penn State University Nittany Lions, McQuery had climbed the ranks from Coach Joe Paterno's graduate assistant to Penn State's recruiting coordinator. In 2011, McQueary even bought a house near the campus, just blocks from Coach Paterno's home. Currently, McQueary is an unemployed 37-year-old whose college football career appears finished. Why?
McQueary testified in the trial of Jerry Sandusky that he witnessed the defendant sexually abusing a boy in the Penn State University football showers. His testimony began a spiral of accusations which destroyed the edifice of Penn State Football. When Bill O'Brien replaced Paterno as head coach, he interviewed every assistant except McQueary. While on the stand, McQueary said that he cannot identify what he did wrong to lose his job.
The pioneering whistleblowers
McQueary is not the first whistleblower to bring down a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) powerhouse and suffer strong retaliation:
The Godmother of NCAA whistleblowers
Jan Kemp earned her three academic degrees from the University of Georgia. In 1980, she attended every Bulldogs football game, including the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. When Kemp blew the whistle on the academic injustice for student athletes and the children of wealthy donors in 1982, she started a long fight. Two days after submitting a protest letter about grade fixing for 10 football players, Kemp was removed of her supervisory duties. She filed a slander and libel suit which was tossed out of court. Kemp later sued again claiming free speech violations and won a $2.6 million judgment.
Norma McGill and Ohio State University
Norma McGill was a teaching assistant in the African-American and Africa Studies Department at Ohio State University. When McGill witnessed star running back Maurice Clarett walk out of his midterm exam in 2002 and then retake the test orally, and later complete his final exam orally, she questioned the entire student-athlete system at Ohio State. When McGill called on school officials to investigate how student athletes were being treated, she suffered hostile treatment from the department chair. Scared of wrath from crazed NCAA fans, McGill ran to her native Kentucky where she became homeless.
Jan Gangelhoff and the University of Minnesota
Jan Gangelhoff served as basketball secretary at the University of Minnesota. When Gangelhoff blew the whistle in 1999 that she wrote papers for 18 University of Minnesota basketball players, she caused an eruption that eventually led to the resignations of famed Coach Clem Haskins and other university officials. Like McGill, Gangelhoff escaped to a remote location in Minnesota to avoid retaliation.
Linda Bensel-Meyers and the University of Tennessee
Linda Bensel-Meyers was a tenured professor at the University of Tennessee when she blew the whistle on academic fraud for student athletes at Tennessee in 1999. She exposed rampant cases of steering athletes to easy courses, changing grades, arranging tutors to write papers and other academic favors. Despite vulgar emails, threats and other acts of intimidation, Bensel-Meyers remained at the University of Tennessee for three years before obtaining a position at the University of Denver.
Whistleblowing can be complicated and emotionally challenging.