There are a million things more serious about the Penn State/Jerry Sandusky scandal than whether Mike McQueary, the former QB at the heart of blowing the whistle (eventually) on the whole thing, possibly had a gambling problem during his playing days.
But if you read the vast ESPN report on McQueary, that subject was raised.
According to several of his classmates and teammates, McQueary developed a compulsive gambling habit at Penn State. He bet and lost thousands of dollars on poker and sports wagering, mostly on pro football, though he also bet, several of his former teammates say, on Nittany Lions games. One former teammate specifically recalls that Big Red bet and lost on his own team in a November 1996 game against Michigan State at Beaver Stadium. With McQueary serving as a backup on the sideline, favorite PSU won on a late field goal 32-29 but didn't cover the eight-point spread.
As his losses mounted, McQueary owed thousands of dollars to a bookie, a debt that was eventually erased by his father, several people say. A college friend recalls urging McQueary to slow down. "It got pretty bad," the friend says, "and it just kept snowballing and snowballing. He was very impulsive."
It adds another layer to an already controversial ending to a game from 1995, when McQueary -- playing as a backup QB at the end of a game -- threw a TD pass from midfield with barely a minute remaining and the Lions holding an 18-point lead on Rutgers. Per an account of the game at the time:
And then Mike McQueary, a substitute Penn State quarterback, spotted an open receiver late Saturday night, and the question of the young season -- When does too much become enough? -- was revived once more.
McQueary's 42-yard touchdown pass to Chris Campbell, 58 seconds from the end of Penn State's bizarre 59-34 victory over Rutgers at Giants Stadium, led to an angry exchange between Doug Graber, the Rutgers coach, and Penn State's Joe Paterno.
Suddenly, Penn State's 20th consecutive victory, and the types of defensive lapses that could eventually derail a second straight trip to the Rose Bowl, were overshadowed by a quarrelsome handshake. Paterno had to be restrained from pursuing Graber after the Rutgers coach made a parting remark.
Afterward, Graber chose not to talk about the margin of victory -- which didn't exceed the Las Vegas point spread of 19 1/2 to 20 points until the final score -- or the controversial touchdown, and his players followed his lead.
Here is video of the play and the heated exchange (there are some swears during the midfield exchange, FYI). It could all be one big coincidence. Or not.