Many South Carolinians are either rejoicing or despairing today over the outcome of a football game.

But before deriving too much glee -- or gloom -- from what happened Saturday night at Williams-Brice Stadium, heed this recent reminder: As ugly news now tainting The Citadel and Penn State teaches us, our favorite institutions of higher learning can fall far short on much more meaningful measures than a sports scoreboard.

An even more troubling lesson: Those infuriating stories reflect a human-nature side much darker than any particular flaws at particular schools, including the appalling decisions of Citadel and Penn State officials, when notified of alleged adult-child sexual activity on their campuses, to not alert the police.

That dereliction of duty allegedly left more kids at the mercy of monsters who could have, and should have, been removed as threats long ago.

And despite repeated recent laments over how a "Citadel Man" -- or Citadel Men -- failed to fulfill the school's standard for "honor," you need not be especially honorable to do the right thing when told that an adult camp counselor is playing sexual games with young boys.

A minimum sense of decency and responsibility should suffice.

But even more chilling than hearing that those in charge looked the other way, endangering kids in the self-serving process, is knowing that legions of child molesters apparently walk among us -- and among children.

Another familiar line inspired by such awful revelations: "Why would that sicko think he could get away with it?"

Hey, these sickos don't just think they can get away with it. They know they can. After all, men once placed in charge of children at The Citadel and Penn State are now charged with horrible, multiple crimes against innocence, allegedly committed over many years, with more charges reportedly to come.

So how many other warpos elsewhere are still getting away with it? How many of us have assumed that the numbers we've heard on how many kids are subjected to sexual abuse were seriously inflated for shock effect? How many of us are now not nearly as confident that those figures are exaggerated?

The most troubling question remains:

How could anybody be so debased as to sexually abuse a child?

Sure, there have always been lots of lowdown people who do lots of lowdown things. In the last century, man's inhumanity to man advanced on an industrial scale. Mass slaughter of innocents hit new heights. And if Islamic zealot terrorists get their way (and get nuclear weapons), they might break those records in this century.

But that threat, while daunting and rising, pits the many against the many -- them against us.

The menace exposed anew at The Citadel and Penn State is one against one -- trusted grown-up against trusting kid.

Two friends of mine know the grown-up Citadel grad who has admitted -- so far -- to abusing nine boys since leaving his role as a camp counselor at his alma mater. They say that he had seemed worthy of trust.

So whom can you really trust with your kids?

Who would really trust you with their kids?

How can anybody now not be more suspicious of those who spend lots of time with kids?

What should we do with the child-abusing fiends we are lucky enough to finally catch?

One obvious answer to the last question:

Keep them far from children.

Meanwhile, we must also sort out what went so terribly wrong at The Citadel and Penn State. Heads must roll.

At Penn State, some already have.

Yet regardless of any changing of the guards there or elsewhere, child-molesting creeps will still lurk in our midst.

While vigilance against their disgusting ilk will presumably intensify, this unnerving reality will persist: Perverts who prey on kids are extremely adept in hiding their vicious, vile urges -- and in finding the most vulnerable targets.

So see, we have much more important things to focus on than Saturday night's bragging-rights showdown in Columbia.

And on that score, we're all losers.