Thoughts from a Penn State football fan

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By Brad Spencer

Sports Editor

Here you have it, a legacy tarnished by scandal.

Did legendary college football coach Joe Paterno — a diminutive man in the physical sense whose persona is bigger than anything physical on the campus at Penn State — cover up a sex scandal involving one of his former coaches years ago?

Paterno has admitted in the wake of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky’s arrest for allegedly molesting eight boys over 15 years that he should have done more following an incident brought to his attention by a graduate student in 2002. That’s accepting a portion of the guilt right there. Paterno, 84, went a little further by announcing he would retire at the end of the season, amid this disgrace.

Paterno didn’t molest any children. He didn’t witness any children being molested. He was told of an incident and took it to the athletic director and an executive director, who have both been arrested for not pursuing the matter further. Prosecutors have publicly stated that Paterno is not under investigation for any wrong-doing.  

But after giving 61 years to the program — 46 as head coach — and bringing millions of dollars to the school, the board of trustees fired him on Wednesday night. After he helped shape thousands of young athletes into future NFL players, doctors, lawyers, and teachers, he was given his walking papers.

As a Penn State football fan for many years, it’s been difficult to digest all this in the last few days. If Joe Pa knew what Sandusky was doing to young boys and did nothing, his firing, of course, is more than an acceptable action, something that should have happened years ago. But when you’ve come to think of the man as an icon, a part of you wants to believe he did what he was supposed to do, while others failed him, the school, and, most significantly, the victims.

But deep down, you know that’s wrong. Joe Paterno was the person who should have gone to police after a graduate assistant allegedly witnessed his former player, former coach and friend, Jerry Sandusky, sexually assaulting a boy in March of 2002. He should have led officers to Sandusky’s front door. He didn’t do that. It breaks your heart that he didn’t do that. He informed former athletic director Tim Curley, also a former player for Paterno. Nothing was done. Sandusky could have been behind bars nine years ago, unable to hurt any more children. Paterno must carry that weight for the rest of his life.

Now a dark cloud hovers over Penn State football, over Beaver Stadium, in what is — or was — Happy Valley.

Contact:
Email: bspencer@oakpark.com Twitter: OakParkSports

Reader Comments

7 Comments - Add Your Comment

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T.J. from Oak Park  

Posted: November 14th, 2011 10:47 AM

I hope Penn State takes down the statue of Joe Paterno. Maybe they can melt the thing down and sell the material to help pay the law suits that will soon be filed against the university.

Brad Spencer, sports editor Wednesday Journal  

Posted: November 11th, 2011 4:50 PM

545 and Q, next time read the blog entry entirely, understand it, and then post a comment. I read the grand jury testimony--one of the first things I did when the news broke. It's horrific what happened and what was not done about it. I defend no one in the blog, especially Paterno. The blog is about how someone I have come to respect and revere has failed us and the victims.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: November 11th, 2011 3:08 PM

Now the dark cloud that hovered over the stadium has been lifted. Don't give in to false heroes. This was fully wrong of someone not to take action. If you have doubts that you may follow what your hero did, get yourself better educated on what victims have to suffer with.

Oak Park Resident # 545 from Oak Park  

Posted: November 11th, 2011 2:37 PM

Brad, do yourself a favor and read the grand jury report. Be forewarned though, it will be an excruciating read, but trust me that you'll have a different view of this situation. Everyone involved with the program, the university, and the community who enabled Sandusky, going back 30 years, needs to go to jail, Paterno included. The students who "rallied" on JoePa's lawn need to grow up fast and see the horror of what happened. The football program is irrelevant at this point.

Carol ford from Oak park il  

Posted: November 11th, 2011 1:54 PM

Joe Paterno has made quite a good living being a man of decision...the face of Penn St football. All Joe had to do was put a face...perhaps of a beloved grandchild... onto the victim and he would have known IMMEDIATELY the right thing to do.

T.J. from Oak Park  

Posted: November 10th, 2011 6:37 PM

So much for old Joe always doing the right thing. He turned a blind eye to a horrific crime. Joe is no leader and his ruputation for always winning the "right" way is not deserved. He deserved to be fired for his willingness to let Sandusky's behavior be swept under the rug. And the grad student should have called the campus police immediately, not gone to Paterno. These people have no moral compass.

Debbie Mercer from Oak Park  

Posted: November 10th, 2011 3:50 PM

The guy's a disgrace, period.

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