The Penn State faithful were fooled

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By Brad Spencer

Sports Editor

Simple uniforms. A history of excellence, coupled with honor. A coach who was funny, feisty and fierce. Old school, smash-mouth football. Fearful linebackers, ferocious running backs. The Nittany Lions had it all and I was on board.  

I did not attend Penn State University, but ever since my youth I've been a devoted fan of the football program. Notre Dame was too pompous. Texas too big. Alabama too Alabama. Tennessee hurt my eyes. I wasn't going to dye my hair blond and take up surfing to follow USC. Oklahoma, frankly, frightened me. The other Big Ten schools wouldn't do: Northwestern wasn't enthusiastic enough. With Illinois State grads in the family (and I would become one), rooting for Illinois in anything was out of the question. Michigan sparked my interest, but it was Penn State's instantly likable coach Joe Paterno that ultimately won me over.

I admired Paterno so much that I read multiple biographies on the man. He was more interesting than any other college football coach and seemed more genuine. The dark, thick and square glasses. The pants that didn't reach his shoes. The squeaky voice. Bobby Bowden, Jim Tressel, Lloyd Carr, none could hold a candle to Paterno. He demanded his players act accordingly on and off the field. His motto was, "Success with honor." He was an icon.

Turns out, he was also a phony.

Former FBI director Louis Freeh's report, which was commissioned by the university's trustees, states that top officials, including Paterno, were aware of the child-abuse allegations against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky in 1998 and set about covering it up.

It's a revelation that knocks the air from your lungs. You recall reading, back when the scandal broke, Paterno's adamant denial of being aware of allegations in '98. You're crestfallen. Sure, you've been lied to before, by presidents of this free country, mind you, but this involves the abuse of children and therefore is repulsive and reprehensible beyond any other untruth.

So there it is, the photo of you standing next to a statue of a coach you once admired. You shake your head in disgust, considering that not far away from where the photo was taken, in the football training facility's showers, Sandusky abused one of his many victims. And you wonder, should the bronze statue that stands 7-feet high of a man who physically stood 5-feet-8 but whose stature once lingered in the stratospheres, come down?

The answer is no.

Paterno is dead. Two top executives, former university vice president Gary Shultz and former athletic director Tim Curley, who also both allegedly knew of the abuse, have been fired and await trial on perjury charges. Sandusky is going to prison for the rest of his life. It was announced back when indictments were being handed down, that Paterno would not be charged with a crime. 

Why should a statue that honors a coach — the winningest in Division I football — come down? Over the years, Paterno and his wife Sue donated upwards of $4 million to the university. He gave 61 years to the program — 46 as head coach. He helped shape the minds of hundreds of young men, many of whom revered him and his principles after graduating.

But the words on the stone wall to the right of his statue are haunting. "They ask me what I'd like written about me when I'm gone. I hope they write I made Penn State a better place, not just that I was a good football coach."

Sorry JoePa, I'll remember you as merely a good football coach.



Twitter: @Oakparksports

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Reader Comments

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T.J. from Oak Park  

Posted: July 22nd, 2012 11:25 AM

@Brad The caption under your photo says "During happier times in Happy Valley." Happier for who? I wonder what year this picture was taken? I'll bet it was a horrific year for some local kids.

T.J. from Oak Park  

Posted: July 22nd, 2012 11:18 AM

The statue has been taken down. This was the appropriate action by the university. We build statues of people who lead by example. Too bad Joe turned out to be a giant phony. I disagree that Joe was a successful football coach. He was a failure who won a record setting number of games. But a looser in my book. Penn State should have no football program for at least 4 years.

This Just In...  

Posted: July 22nd, 2012 8:39 AM

Paterno statue coming down.

John DeCaro from Oak Park  

Posted: July 17th, 2012 5:54 PM

Instead, he allowed this to continue and sold his soul for the sake of his own ego. He had to know that if this came out at any time after the accused behavior first occurred, then he would be accused of a cover up and likely fired. He was a great football coach but a hypocrite. The reason the statue should come down is because it glorifies the actions of a flawed man who didn't protect children from a rapist for his own benefit and left the university community picking up the pieces.

John DeCaro from Oak Park  

Posted: July 17th, 2012 5:41 PM

Brad, you are obviously entitled to your opinion but you are unequivocably, 100% wrong on this. It is clear that Paterno deliberately chose to protect Sandusky for the sake of his own legacy, ability to continue to coach, and to pursue wins. All he had to do back when the first accusation was made was to call out Sandusky, report him to the authorities (or bless the investigation) and wash his hands of the mess. Instead, he allowed a predator to continue to harm children.

Carol Ford from Oak Park Il  

Posted: July 17th, 2012 5:29 PM

My mother told me long ago that it is easy to determine the character of a human being. Watch how he treats those who can do absolutely nothing for him. Pretty clear what kind of man Joe Paterno was. Statues are for honoring heroes....not criminals.

Jim Mariner  

Posted: July 17th, 2012 12:43 PM

Report Of The Special Investigative Counsel Regarding The Actions Of The Pennsylvania State University Related To The Child Sexual Abuse Committed By Gerald A. Sandusky

Jim Mariner  

Posted: July 17th, 2012 12:28 PM

I am a HUGE football fan. Joe Paterno and top administrators engaged in a massive cover-up of CHILD RAPE. They let Sandusky, in the guise of pretending to help at-risk and disadvantagd youth, continue to commit CHILD RAPE. It does'nt get much more EVIL than that. #1. Jail time for all the administrators involved and anyone else in the know. #2. Statue comes down immediately. #3. NCAA death penalty for the football program for 4 years. Current players allowed to transfer immediately or continue

Jim Mariner from River Forest  

Posted: July 17th, 2012 12:13 PM

(continued) their education at Penn State until graduation free of charge. Current coaches and other employees of the football program not involved in the scandal are to be duly compensated. It still boggles my mind why Paterno and top administrators did not turn Sandusky into the police long ago. Looks like they let money triumph CHILD RAPE. What is our society coming to ?

OP Resident # 545 from Oak Park  

Posted: July 17th, 2012 11:09 AM

I struggle with this. In my view, the football program should be shut down immediately. In large part it was the culture of State College, enabled by the admin & Paterno that allowed these horrors, therefore all are culpable. Keeping the statue might have the effect of keeping alive the tradgedy, not unlike the Nazi camps in Germany. If it's seen every day, maybe it'll help prevent it from happening again.

Oak Parker  

Posted: July 17th, 2012 10:43 AM

*of any degree of good character.

Oak Parker  

Posted: July 17th, 2012 10:42 AM

The Statue should come down. Doesnt matter if the individual is dead, he is to be judged by the actions of his life not the status of whether or not he is living. In this case, he allowed dozens of children to be preyed upon by a pervert for years. I dont see how he is a man or any character despite all the money he has shelled at the university.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 16th, 2012 3:23 PM

For every child who was molested by an adult and betrayed by those who claim to care, the statue should come down.

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