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Not Just Football: An Intergroup Perspective on the Sandusky Scandal at Penn State


Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Clayton P. Alderfer.


Address: Alderfer & Associates, 21 Grayson Drive, Belle Mead, NJ 08502


When the Penn State football scandal exploded in 2012, observers tended to frame events in terms of individuals behaving badly or irresponsibly. The perpetrator of child abuse was convicted and sent to prison; the head football coach was fired; the president of the University and several senior administrators were terminated; and the former head of the Board of Trustees was forced to resign. Certainly, these actions were understandable under the circumstances. Terrible crimes had been committed and covered up for over a decade. Nevertheless, an exclusively individual focus overlooks the roles of 9 groups whose collective behavior first allowed the criminal acts to occur and then put an end to them. The groups included the children's families and high school coaches, the Penn State football coaching staff, the Penn State senior administration, the Penn State Board of Trustees, the Second Mile charitable organization, the Centre County Pennsylvania criminal justice system, Penn State students, the Big 10 athletic conference, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association. This article employs a group and intergroup perspective to analyze key events and to explain both the dysfunctional systemic behavior and the corrective actions.