Say It Ain't So, Joe

The sex scandal at Penn State leaves a nation stunned and a legend tarnished forever.

"Character is who you are when nobody is watching."

Joe Paterno was deified in the college football world because he won football games and appeared to be a man of honesty and integrity.

He built Penn State into a national power, running a squeaky-clean program whose motto, "Success with Honor" is plastered on the walls throughout the football facility. He always said the right things, acted with class, and was admired for genuinely caring about the young players he was coaching. But when the cameras were off and the lights were no longer shining on him, Paterno's true character was revealed.

Instead of doing the right thing and protecting young children from a predator, a man Paterno coached side-by-side with for 30 years, he reportedly looked the other way—possibly because his record, reputation and legacy were far more important to him.

Paterno, his athletic director, and the president of Penn State tried to sweep the despicable acts of Jerry Sandusky, a former defensive coordinator, who was allegedly caught raping a 10-year old child in the shower of the team's facility in 2002, under the rug. Nine years later, the ugly sludge came pouring out into every room of Penn State's house, creating a cess pool as big as the Grand Canyon.

According to the grand jury report on Sandusky, which may just be the most disturbing 23 pages I’ve ever read, Paterno was told by graduate assistant, Mike McQueary, that he witnessed Sandusky performing a sexual act on a boy in the shower. Paterno is said to have reported the incident to his boss, then washed his hands of it. He apparently did nothing more—didn't call the police or child services. It seems the man who supposedly was an educator and possessed a moral compass that pointed north, just went back to coaching football as if nothing ever happened.

Meanwhile, Sandusky, who in 1998 was also involved in an incident with a child which Paterno knew about, was allowed to come and go to the football facility as often as he liked. He had his own office and was working out in the weight room just last week. Sandusky continued to bring young children from his foundation, "The Second Mile," to Penn State football games and practices. Are you kidding me? A known sexual molester is given free reign to bring children on the campus of Penn State?

Sandusky had coached with Paterno for three decades before retiring under suspicious circumstances in 1999. Four coaches had been on Joe Pa's staff for more than 20 years. He demanded loyalty and expected them to look out for one another. Instead of doing that, Paterno and his coaches should've been protecting those children who couldn't protect themselves.

The day before Paterno was fired, he admitted that he should've done more. But the 84-year old Paterno had better things to do. He had to protect his image, record, and legacy. Like so many coaches in college football, it was all about him, the great Joe Paterno.

There is nobody who can defend Paterno, not when it comes to this. He may have followed university protocol in reporting Sandusky's act to his bosses, which he did to protect himself, not the boy, whom he never even sought out to see if he was all right. But his lapse in moral judgment exposed Paterno, costing him his job and legendary coaching status. His 409 wins, the most in history, and national championships mean nothing now. Nothing.

Paterno mastered his Xs and Os a long time ago. He was a brilliant motivator who taught his players there was more to life than just football. But Paterno failed miserably when it mattered most. He could've shielded more children from a known predator, but for some reason, Paterno chose not to. Tragically, their lives are ruined. Sadly, so is his.

After Sandusky was arrested last Saturday, Paterno said "we were all fooled."

No, Joe, you fooled all of us.

Brian Kesselman November 11, 2011 at 09:11 PM
Paul, I agree with much of your opnion, but not all. I think Sandusky is dispicable, and feel terrible for the children, the real victims. I hope change comes to Penn State, my alma mater, to prevent recurrence and encourage students and staff to take action, and not look the other way. I don't agree with your statement that Joe Paterno's accomplishments mean nothing, or that he fooled us. He made a mistake, and compounded it over and over by continuing on that course. His mistake had the gravest of consequences. However, as a Varsity Letter holder and participant in Penn State Athletics, I personally experienced the positive influences of Joe Paterno: the number of students and others that he pushed to do the right thing, the strive for honor, the high standards. We were and are all better people partly due to his impact on the school and the community. Those wins, and the losses along the way, were each a testament to the attitude that he brought to the players and the school. Each accomplishment was part of the bigger legacy because they were done including his positive contributions, not despite them. That legacy is now tarnished, but it cannot be turned to "nothing". Saying that also discounts the effort he engendered in his teams, and their efforts made in his honor and in honor of PSU. Feel free to review my comments on Heather's article: http://whiteplains.patch.com/articles/a-mother-s-perspective-penn-state-s-shame - More Blue today than White
Paul Devlin November 11, 2011 at 09:43 PM
Many sports fans somehow think this is about wins, losses, football, national championships, etc. It has nothing to do with sports. It has to do with children and how they weren't protected when they should've have been and most definitely could have been. I admired Joe Paterno from afar and he did a million good things. However, as the saying goes, you can take years to build a reputation and it only takes one bad decision to destroy it. I, like you, was a Varsity letter winner at a major college (UNC) and I'm pretty keen on what goes on in an athletic department. There is no way that Paterno is the only one to blame in this mess. As Barry Switzer said, everyone on that coaching staff knew what was going. Everyone. You can't hide that from people your are with more than your family during the football season. And Paterno and others looked away not just once, but many times over the course of 14 years. I'm sorry, but Paterno and the powers at Penn State failed miserably. They should've been protecting those who couldn't protect themselves. It's sad, but when people talk about Paterno in the years to come, it'll be great coach but.....
TP November 11, 2011 at 10:12 PM
I for one cannot possibly fathom the outpouring of support and admiration for Paterno. What happened was despicable. From the outside it seems that it was all just swept under the rug from the coaching staff up to the University President and possibly beyond. Sandusky agrees to quit coaching (in his prime), the assistant who witnessed the affair and reported it (and knew nothing was done about it) quietly moved up the coaching ranks, etc. And even now, players talking about a tribute to the coach ? The coach not immediately fired (and the asst still on the payroll) ? Protests over Joe's firing ? Long lines of gift-givers coming by his campus house to honor his legacy ? I just don't get it .... . All should have followed a simple creed: have the courage to make the hard, right choices instead of the easy, wrong choices. Its time to comfort and compensate the victims and fire everyone associated with this mess and start over to rebuild faith in a once-great institution.
Larry November 12, 2011 at 02:58 AM
Why isn't Sandusky in jail right now rather than out on bail??? To think he is still free to go where he pleases in that community is chilling.


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