Four-hundred and nine wins, the most in Division I history. Two national titles, annual donations of $100,000 and well over $13 millions raised in his time at Penn State. Joe Paterno is a coaching legend. His former players and coaches have said that he has changed their lives in a good way and consider him to be an amazing teacher. This time however, the life changing he did was help ruin the lives of countless number of victims, children at that, at the hands of assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Once on top of the world and considered one of the best coaches of all-time, Paterno’s football statistics mean nothing now, as his legacy isn’t just tarnished, but it is ruined.
First, let me say that I am an Oregon Ducks fan most, but a college football fan in general. I enjoy watching good competition and watching the budding college players. I’m not looking at this through blue and gold Pitt glasses or blue and white Penn State glasses. I’m looking at this as a fan, a man and a person that knows the difference between right and wrong. For Paterno, who passed away in January just months after being relieved of duty as head coach for the Nittany Lions, what he did was wrong on so many levels.
While I don’t need to go into all that Sandusky has done since we all know about it, let’s focus on Paterno. Paterno testified to a grand jury that he had no knowledge about the sexual assaults before 2001, when then grad assistant Mike McQueary told him about what he witnessed Sandusky doing to a young boy in the shower. Paterno reported it to his superior, but never followed up. My first issue is, Paterno didn’t have superiors at Penn State. Not Graham Spanier. Not Tim Curley. No one. While their titles were of a higher ranking than Paterno, everyone knew that Paterno was viewed as a god-type figure in Happy Valley.
So it went down that Paterno did the right thing legally, but could have done more morally. To that point, I agreed with that. I thought Paterno could have done more and wished he would have, as did he when he mentioned his infamous phrase, “I wish I had done more.” Paterno was just an old, delusional man who didn’t realize what was going on right? That was the portrayal.
Thanks to former FBI Director Louis Freeh, who did an eight-month investigation that resulted in spending millions of dollars for a 267 page report proving that Spanier, Curley, Gary Schultz and yes, even Paterno had knowledge of what Sandusky was doing since 1998. There were emails exchanged that were brought to fruition that proved that Paterno lied to a grand jury about having any previous knowledge.
From the report: “Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State. The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized. Messrs. Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky’s victims until after Sandusky’s arrest.”
And when the others were going to come forward, it was Paterno who decided to cover it up even longer.
“Based on the evidence, the only known, intervening factor between the decision made on February 25, 2001 by Messrs. Spanier, Curley and Schulz to report the incident to the Department of Public Welfare, and then agreeing not to do so on February 27th, was Mr. Paterno’s February 26th conversation with Mr. Curley.”
Paterno wasn’t the old man who didn’t have a clue. He wasn’t raping the victims like Sandusky was, but knowing about the doings of his assistant and covering them up, makes him just as guilty. These were young kids who were given tours of the Penn State facilities and were one-on-one with Sandusky all the time. What decent human would knowingly let this go on? Were Curley, Spanier and Paterno afraid to lose their jobs? I can say, without a shadow of a doubt that no matter where I was working, losing my job would be the last thing on my mind if I knew a co-worker was raping anyone, let alone children.
Not only did Paterno know about what Sandusky was doing, but whenever he was set to go on trial, he and the president of Penn State started to amend a new contract. His contract wasn’t up until the end of 2012 so it came as a surprise. They agreed that Paterno would earn $3 million if he agreed that 2011 would be his last season. His family also threatened to bombard the board of trustees with a defamation case, gave the Paterno family a package worth about $5 million dollars. The full report can be read: HERE
So with coach, teacher, criminal and donator, you can now add the title of extortionist to his description.
With all of this coming to light, there are still those that defend Paterno. If you want to defend that he should be remembered for his coaching legacy instead of this, fine. But to say that he’s dead and can’t defend himself and that all of the blame is being placed on him in an unfair matter is delusional. We all love our sports and our heroes. We stick up for them and Penn State fans bleed blue and white through and through. I looked up to Paterno growing up as a great coach, but it’s time to realize what this man did. He helped ruin the lives of these kids forever. I think it’s safe to say Paterno is no longer resting in peace.
So what becomes of Penn State and Joe Paterno? The mural featuring a halo over Paterno’s head has already been removed. The statue of Paterno right by Beaver Stadium (which I posed by three weeks ago in honor of my grandfather, a big Penn State fan), is up in discussion. Should they tear it down, or should it stay? While the board of trustees doesn’t want to rush to a decision, I think ultimately it will come down as it should.
For the program, will the school face sanctions and even worse, will they be given the death penalty? In my opinion, football should be taken away from the school for two seasons. Happy Valley is all about football and it’s a great tradition, but if Penn State truly wants to show remorse, then they will put the school on a two-year football hiatus. If they don’t do it themselves, then the Big Ten and the NCAA needs to step in and do it themselves.
Southern Methodist University was given the death penalty years ago and has never rebounded. While they will suffer short-term, I feel Penn State will bounce back in the future. It’s not the popular choice, but if Penn State wants to live up to their slogan of “Success with Honor,” they’ll do this. Should you feel bad for the coaching staff and the players who are currently there who had nothing to do with this? Absolutely. However when Reggie Bush cost USC bowl games and Terrelle Pryor and Co. cost Ohio State a bowl berth last season, their teammates and in Bush’s case, players who had no tie to him, had to suffer the consequences.
The Freeh report was done for the victims and while it won’t ever take away what Sandusky did, it may help to ease the pain a little bit. The replacing of the showers in the Penn State locker room won’t change what happened in the facility, but will help the rebuilding process of the school. Paterno was one hell of a football coach and he did a lot of good for the school and the area. He proved however, that he was willing to do anything to win; including child rape. Sorry Joe, you made your own legacy.