Beware of the mighty fall.

Whether it be governments, man-made objects or persons who lead kingdoms, nothing and no one is impervious to failure or a subsequent fall from grace.

Too many times in recent years, those people or things we tend to honor or deify end up crashing down to earth. Sports stars and those in the entertainment world seem most likely to burst our bubbles.

One year ago, Penn State had one of the most coveted and storied programs in college football. On the heels of one of the greatest scandals in sports history, little did anyone realize just how fast the empire that Joe Paterno built in Nittany Valley could come crashing to earth.

Thursday's report on the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal by former FBI Director Louis Freeh revealed one underlying thread: The football program was such a megalith that no one on campus appeared strong enough to challenge the giant during Sandusky's terrible tenure.

One of the most chilling parts of the Freeh report was when he told how the collective inaction and mindset at the top of the university trickled all the way down to a school janitor who witnessed Sandusky raping a boy in the shower in 2000. The janitor, a Korean War veteran, called it the worst thing he ever saw and that it made him sick.

Freeh said after the man told other janitors, the men were alarmed and shocked but said they couldn't report it for fear of getting fired.

"They knew who Sandusky was," Freeh said. "One of the janitors watched him as a famous defense coordinator growing up. They were afraid to take on the football program. They said the university would circle around it. It was like taking on the President of the United States. They never reported it because they were afraid of being fired for reporting a powerful football coach."

This inaction, on the part of the janitors and others, led to the "failure of governance" on the part of officials and the board of trustees.

History teaches that the crumbling of great nations and empires can begin from within its very walls. In the case of the Penn State/Sandusky scandal, attempting to protect the brand name of the institution while evil lurked within its walls led to destruction. Mistakes were made by those in high authority, casualties were suffered and the pain to the university's extended family members has been deep.

Now that a campus deity the mighty Penn State football program and chief architect has been dismantled, the only direction left for the university to move is forward.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com