Monday, I wrote the following sentence on Facebook: Why hasn’t Joe Paterno been fired?
It elicited a lot of response. A lot. Especially from one guy whose primary message was that none of us know what we would havePenn State football coach Joe Paterno.done in Paterno’s shoes.
I’m sure you know the story by now. I have spent much of the past two days reading about the Penn State scandal and the 80 counts brought against former Paterno assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who is charged with sexually assaulting eight minor children, all of whom participated in the children’s charity group he started a decade or so ago, The Second Mile.
This is a grotesque story, obviously. I just finished reading a column by Joe Posnanski of “Sports Illustrated,” on this matter. Posnanski has spent the past few months in State College, Pa., where he is working on a book about Paterno. You can imagine his confusion given the recent news.
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Paterno’s involvement in the scandal at once appears simple – a grand jury report states that he was alerted by a graduate assistant in 2002 who had witnessed Sandusky having what he later said to be anal intercourse with a young boy inside a shower in the Penn State football complex – and complex.
But more than anything, it’s confusing.
Given such horrific news, Paterno went to his boss, Penn State athletic director Tim Curley. And that, apparently, is the extent of Paterno’s involvement.
Curley and Penn State’s vice president for finance and business, Gary Schultz, have been arrested for covering up the scandal. Curley is on administrative leave and Schultz has gone back into retirement. Both are free on bail as they await preliminary hearings.
Paterno, the winningest coach in college football history, will be in charge of his team Saturday when the Nittany Lions face Nebraska.
Posnanski, who is connected to Paterno as any writer in the country because of the book deal, wrote in his SI piece that he can’t get clarity because of the enormity of the scandal. Because of that, he has not written his opinion on the matter. It’s too early in the process for him to do so, he wrote.
It’s an interesting viewpoint and one I can understand. Nothing elicits a knee jerk reaction like a sexual scandal involving children.
Still, there are so many questions that need to eventually be asked of Paterno. But he’s 84 and on his last legs as a football coach. How many of those questions will he be able to answer?
Why was he satisfied to simply go to the next level in the chain of command and leave it at that? And that’s if you buy the notion that there is a higher level in the chain of command at Penn State. Many believe Paterno to be a much more significant commander at Penn State than the athletic director or even the president.
Why wasn’t he more curious about the situation? Why didn’t he go directly to Sandusky, his assistant coach and presumably his friend for so many years, to ask him about the incident?
According to reports, people who knew Sandusky well say they rarely saw him without a child by his side. He and his wife didn’t have children of their own, but adopted eight.
According to authorities, Paterno is not part of the investigation. Legally – at least as far as we’ve gotten into the process thus far – Paterno fulfilled his obligation by passing along information to Curley about the alleged sexual assault inside a Penn State shower late on a Saturday night.
But what was Paterno’s moral obligation here? Was it to do more than he did?
I think it was, given his stature at Penn State. He had to know that if there was anything scandalous going on inside the walls of the football program that those walls would ultimately collapse on him.
The statement Paterno released was difficult for me to read. How can a man whose identity is Penn State football be so out of touch?
Here is the statement, in full:If true, the nature and amount of charges made are very shocking to me and all Penn Staters. While I did what I was supposed to with the one charge brought to my attention, like anyone else involved I can't help but be deeply saddened these matters are alleged to have occurred.Sue and I have devoted our lives to helping young people reach their potential. The fact that someone we thought we knew might have harmed young people to this extent is deeply troubling. If this is true we were all fooled, along with scores of professionals trained in such things, and we grieve for the victims and their families. They are in our prayers.As my grand jury testimony stated, I was informed in 2002 by an assistant coach that he had witnessed an incident in the shower of our locker room facility. It was obvious that the witness was distraught over what he saw, but he at no time related to me the very specific actions contained in the Grand Jury report. Regardless, it was clear that the witness saw something inappropriate involving Mr. Sandusky. As coach Sandusky was retired from our coaching staff at that time, I referred the matter to university administrators.I understand that people are upset and angry, but let’s be fair and let the legal process unfold. In the meantime I would ask all Penn Staters to continue to trust in what that name represents, continue to pursue their lives every day with high ideals and not let these events shake their beliefs nor who they are.“Deeply saddened?” “Deeply troubled?” “We were all fooled?”
Where is Paterno’s outrage? Where is his remorse?
Like most people, I am outraged. I cannot comprehend how something like this could happen. I cannot understand how, for nine years, Sandusky got to go on living his life and was still allowed inside the football complex at Penn State. Reportedly, he was asked to stop bringing children into the complex.
And that, folks, was the extent of the punishment. That’s the slap on the wrist his former Penn State cronies handed down.
Which brings to mind my final question for Coach Paterno. How did you live with yourself?