Wounded Lions

Joe Paterno, Jerry Sandusky, and the Crises in Penn State Athletics
Author: Ronald A. Smith
A rogue program, an iconic coach, and an unspeakable tragedy
Cloth – $125
Paper – $21.95
eBook – $14.95
Publication Date
Cloth: 02/22/2016
Buy the Book Request Desk/Examination Copy Request Review Copy Request Rights or Permissions Request Alternate Format
Book Share

About the Book

The Jerry Sandusky child molestation case stunned the nation. As subsequent revelations uncovered an athletic program operating free of oversight, university officials faced criminal charges while unprecedented NCAA sanctions hammered Penn State football and blackened the reputation of coach Joe Paterno.

In Wounded Lions, acclaimed sport historian and longtime Penn State professor Ronald A. Smith heavily draws from university archives to answer the How? and Why? at the heart of the scandal. The Sandusky case was far from the first example of illegal behavior related to the football program or the university's attempts to suppress news of it. As Smith shows, decades of infighting among administrators, alumni, trustees, faculty, and coaches established policies intended to protect the university, and the football team considered synonymous with its name, at all costs. If the habits predated Paterno, they also became sanctified during his tenure. Smith names names to show how abuses of power warped the "Penn State Way" even with hires like women's basketball coach Rene Portland, who allegedly practiced sexual bias against players for decades. Smith also details a system that concealed Sandusky's horrific acts just as deftly as it whitewashed years of rules violations, coaching malfeasance, and player crime while Paterno set records and raised hundreds of millions of dollars for the university.

A myth-shattering account of misplaced priorities, Wounded Lions charts the intertwined history of an elite university, its storied sports program, and the worst scandal in collegiate athletic history.

About the Author

Ronald A. Smith is a professor emeritus at Pennsylvania State University. His books include Pay for Play: A History of Big-Time College Athletic Reform, Play-by-Play: Radio, Television, and Big-Time College Sport, Sports and Freedom: The Rise of Big-Time College Athletics, and Big-Time Football at Harvard: The Diary of Coach Bill Reid.

Also by this author

Pay for Play cover


"For those well acquainted with Intercollegiate Athletics or for the casual fan this meticulous history will be a revelation. . . . What Ron Smith has done is produce a detailed indictment of an isolated administrative and athletic culture that left the institution and its representatives unable 'to do the right thing,' when faced with a crisis."--Huffington Post

"Based on extensive archival research and insider knowledge, this book convincingly demonstrates that PSU actually had a lengthy history of leadership missteps, which the entire Happy Valley community overlooked to protect the university's pristine image. Recommended." --Choice

"As Smith evaluates the scandal and its origins from a multitude of institutional angles, the narrative reflects a deep research into the internal workings of a prominent athletic program, a valuable resource."--Library Journal

"Using Penn State archives and other research materials, Smith traces how football, and specifically Paterno, gained unquestioned influence on the campus. The author provides admirable research, complete with illuminating anecdotes.--Kirkus Reviews

"Smith's understanding of the scandal at Penn State within the larger context of athletic history at the university not only demonstrates that the environment that creates a scandal takes many years to develop, but also that understanding contemporary issues require a look back at history. . . . Overall, Wounded Lions presents strong evidence that the Sandusky Scandal cannot be limited merely to the coach's transgressions. Smith makes a compelling case for his argument and bolsters it with archival materials and his personal experience at Penn State."--Sport in American History

"Wounded Lions is a good book, a solidly researched account, written by an experienced, first-rank historian."--Sport History Review


"A distinguished Penn State sport historian gives us an intriguing account of his institution's athletics history and daunting journey through a period of national humiliation in well-chosen, research-guided language that holds the reader's interest start to finish."--Joe Crowley, former president, NCAA

"With exhaustive primary source exploration and riveting exposition, superimposed on an examination of Penn State as a fulcrum, Ron Smith examines the 'real controllers' of college sport—university presidents, boards of regents, and alumni—each of which over time have tended to separate college athletics from an institution’s intended academic purpose, and, as well, cast institutions into scandals of immense proportion, of which the Joe Paterno/Jerry Sandusky case thrust Penn State’s Happy Valley utopia into an abyss of staggering anguish and disbelief."--Bob Barney, author of Selling the Five Rings: The IOC and the Rise of Olympic Commercialism

"Smith thoroughly documents decades of events that led to the Sandusky abuse of children. Smith's detailed history of sports administration at Penn State illustrates how the abuse evolved and was ignored in a cloud of conflicting priorities. The reader wonders what kept the individuals in power from not responding sooner and appropriately."--John Swisher, Professor Emeritus, Pennsylvania State University