Jerry Sandusky Biography

Coach (1944–)
Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky made headlines in November 2011, when he was arrested on several sexual offenses related to children. He was later found guilty of 45 charges and sentenced to serve 30 to 60 years in prison.


Born in 1944, Jerry Sandusky earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Pennsylvania State University, and joined the school's football coaching staff in 1969. In 1977, Sandusky founded a charity called Second Mile for at-risk kids. It was through this group that he met several young boys, whom he has been accused of sexually abusing. Sandusky was arrested on these charges in 2011, and was found guilty of 45 charges the following June. In October 2012, Sandusky was sentenced to serve 30 to 60 years in prison.

Early Life

Once a distinguished assistant coach in college football, Jerry Sandusky became infamous in 2011 for allegedly committing numerous sexual offenses involving young boys. His arrest triggered a scandal that sent shockwaves through the Pennsylvania State University community; led to the oust of the school's beloved head coach, Joe Paterno; and the resignation of the university president.

Sandusky grew up in Washington, Pennsylvania. His parents, Art and Evie, ran a community center known as the Brownson House, which offered youth programs. To many who knew Sandusky in his youth, his alleged 2011 crimes come as a surprise. He excelled at sports and did well in school. One former classmate told ESPN, "The Jerry Sandusky I knew 50 years ago was an outstanding football player, a pretty good student and, in general, a very good human being."

After graduating from Washington High School, Sandusky went to Pennsylvania State University. There, he played defensive end on the school's football team, then coached by Rip Engle (coached 1963-65). He earned a bachelor's degree in health and physical education, and then attended graduate school.

Sandusky served as a graduate assistant on the Penn State football team in 1966. After stints at Juniata College and Boston University, he returned to his alma mater in 1969, as an assistant coach to Joe Paterno.

Penn State Coach

Sandusky spent 32 years on the football coaching staff at Penn State, serving as its defensive coordinator since 1977. During his tenure, Sandusky transformed the school's football program into Linebacker U. He coached such all-American linebackers as LaVar Arrington, Brandon Short and Jack Ham. Called a defensive strategy wizard, Sandusky is often credited for two of the team's national title victories—in 1982 and 1986.

Over the years, Sandusky turned down several chances to become a head coach at other colleges. One of the reasons he gave for staying at Penn State was his charity work with Second Mile, a charity he founded for at-risk kids in 1977. The organization offered support and services, including camp programs. He and his wife, Dottie, even adopted one of the children they met through Second Mile. The couple has five other children, all of whom were adopted. Sandusky took Second Mile kids with him to Penn State games, both at home and away. According to some reports, he also gave numerous gifts and money to some of the program participants.

On the surface, Sandusky appeared to be a highly respected coach and philanthropist. He was held in high esteem for his work both on and off the field.

However, questions regarding Sandusky's behavior surfaced in the 1990s. In 1998, authorities became suspicious of him, regarding evidence of his allegedly inappropriate conduct with minors. State College police conducted an investigation of Sandusky, after a boy told his mother that he had showered with Sandusky in Penn State's football building, and that Sandusky had touched him during the incident. However, no charges were filed in that case.

Sandusky retired from Penn State in late 1999. His decision to leave was surprising to some, but others thought there may have been some tension between Sandusky and Paterno. In May 1999, Paterno reportedly told Sandusky that Sandusky would never be considered as his replacement. He soon published his autobiography, Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story (2000), which covered his years in football and his philanthropic efforts.

While no longer on staff on Penn State, Sandusky still used the school's facilities for Second Mile activities. There, he was seen allegedly sexually assaulting two different boys in two separate incidents, in 2000 and 2002. In 2002, a football graduate assistant named Michael McQueary said that he saw Sandusky attacking a boy in the locker room showers. McQueary reported the incident to Joe Paterno, who, in turn, informed the school's athletic director, Timothy Curley. Sandusky had to turn in his keys to the facility, but the police were not contacted regarding the incident.

Scandal and Trial

In 2008, a high school freshman told his mother about sexual abuse he had experienced at the hands of Sandusky, who was working as a volunteer coach at his school. This incident triggered a new investigation of Sandusky, and the young man later became known as Victim No. 1 in the ensuing court case. The investigation yielded unsettling results: at least eight young boys had been allegedly abused by Sandusky.

In November 2011, Sandusky was arrested on 40 charges in connection with the abuse of eight boys. The arrest devastated the small community of State College, home to Penn State; the university came under fire for its handling of the 2002 incident. The school's board of directors acted swiftly. Both Paterno and university president Graham Spanier were forced to leave their positions. Additionally, two other officials resigned, facing criminal charges in connection with the case.

Sandusky has claimed that he is innocent of the charges against him. In December 2011, he granted NBC sports correspondent Bob Costas an interview. Sandusky told Costas that he was not a pedophile and denied being sexually attracted to young boys. He also described the 2002 incident at Penn State as "horsing around." Asked to describe himself, Sandusky said, "I'm a very passionate person, in terms of trying to make a difference in the lives of some young people. I worked very hard to try to connect with them, to make them feel good about themselves, to be something significant in their lives. Maybe this gets misinterpreted."

Pennsylvania authorities hold a very different opinion of Sandusky. By the time his trial had started in June 2012, the number of charges against Sandusky had grown to 52 and included an additional two victims. Some reports indicated that these victims may be just the tip of the iceberg; Newsweek reported that the number could be as high as 100.

As the trial has progressed, several victims have taken the stand to face Sandusky and tell the jury about what he had inflicted upon them. The defense presented several witnesses to support Sandusky, including his wife, Dottie. But the former assistant coach didn't take the stand in his own defense.

On the night of June 22, 2012, the jury delivered its guilty verdict on 45 out of 48 charges in the case. Four charges had been dropped. In October 2012, Sandusky was sentenced to serve 30 to 60 years in prison. In an interview conducted the day before his sentencing hearing, the former assistant coach continued to insist his innocence in the case. "They can take away my life, they can make me out as a monster, they can treat me as a monster, but they can't take away my heart," Sandusky said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "In my heart, I know I did not do these alleged disgusting acts. My wife has been my only sex partner, and that was after marriage."

Fact Check

We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!