Losing a game is heartbreaking. Losing your sense of excellence or worth is a tragedy,” said Joe Paterno, Penn State’s former head football coach.
Unfortunately, after this past week’s sex scandal, Paterno lost his own beloved career, not to mention decades of respect for Penn State football.
Even though this sex scandal was unveiled to the public on Wednesday, Nov. 9, it allegedly began back in the early 1990s.
In 1969, Jerry Sandusky joined Paterno and the rest of the Penn State football program as the defensive line coach. In 1977, Sandusky founded The Second Mile, an organization for troubled young boys with unsettled or absent families. And starting in 1994, Sandusky met his first sexual abuse victims through The Second Mile.
His sexual escapades are said to have continued for years, and supposedly no outsiders were aware. In January 1998, the mother of one of Sandusky’s victims did inform Penn State University Police. But the case came to an abrupt end when then-Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar decided not to press any charges against Sandusky.
Further, in March 2002, Mike McQueary, a Penn State graduate assistant, witnessed Sandusky raping a victim in the Penn State football locker room, according to a grand jury investigation’s findings. McQueary went to Joe Paterno, who then held a meeting with Tim Curley, Penn State’s athletic director. A few weeks later, another meeting was held with McQueary, Curley and Gary Schultz, Penn State’s senior vice president for finance and business.
Despite the awareness of Penn State’s administration, Sandusky is thought to have continued to sexually assault young boys from The Second Mile. Not until spring 2007, when another victim’s mother from a nearby school district told authorities about Sandusky’s abusive acts — and he was prohibited from returning to the district — were any motions set in place to stop him.
In 2008, a formal investigation began and on Nov. 5, 2011, Sandusky was finally arrested on 40 criminal charges.
Joe Paterno’s full knowledge of Sandusky’s heinous acts, but failure to follow through with any actions against him, demoted Paterno’s once admirable and highly acclaimed title to just an incredulous and immoral ex-football coach.
There are no excuses for keeping such information hidden from legal authorities, except, of course, the need to protect the name of an irreplaceable member of Penn State’s football program, in addition to maintaining the moral high ground Penn State has enjoyed since Paterno began coaching.
Paterno’s irresponsibility is unforgivable. However, I do not think that the rest of the team or the entire student body of Penn State also deserved punishment.
Firing Paterno less than one week before Penn State’s last home game against Nebraska, which coincidentally was also the game to honor the graduating seniors, did, in my opinion, reflect poorly in the team’s spirit and performance.
After an already extremely unsettling week at Penn State, the last thing the team needed was a major loss and dampening of character and courage, important team qualities that were able to sustain their strength through Paterno.
By no means do I think that what Paterno did warrants him the title of coach, but I do think that the Nittany Lions deserved one last game with the man who brought them to where they are today.