Wait a minute. Joe Paterno doesn't get to tell Penn State when he's going to retire as its football coach.What's going on in Happy Valley? Is there nobody who can stand up to this frail 84-year-old man who just needed to make one phone call – just one – to avoid the career-ending and legacy-destroying embarrassment of being an accomplice to the sexual assault of a child.Too strong?Take it up with the Penn State board of regents, a group apparently so scared of Paterno and all he represents that it is willing to accept his resignation at the end of the season instead of stopping this nonsense now, when it needs to be stopped.If Paterno takes his team on the field Saturday for Senior Day against Nebraska – and I'm still convinced wiser heads, if there are any, will prevail – it will constitute the biggest farce imaginable.I don't need to rehash the details of this sordid tale, except to say Paterno was one of several men who could have intervened and stopped Jerry Sandusky, a former Paterno player and assistant coach, after he was allegedly caught sexually assaulting a young boy in 2002.At least eight other young boys were attacked by Sandusky, according to a grand jury report. Yet Sandusky was allowed to go about his business and showed up in the Penn State weight room as recently as last week.There is no thread of decency to this story, no morsel of logic. If you took everything that Penn State and Paterno seemed to stand for and threw it all into the air and shot at it with automatic weapons it would look something like what is currently happening.And Paterno wants to tell the Penn State Board of Trustees when he's retiring?I know Paterno is 84, but his inability to grasp reality here is alarming."At this moment the Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status,'' Paterno said in a statement issued Wednesday morning. "They have far more important matters to address. I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can.''I don't know whether to feel sorry for Paterno or slap him upside his head.When a thousand or so Penn State students showed up at Paterno's doorstep Tuesday night and an impromptu pep rally broke out, I thought I was going to be sick.This is no time for school pride. This is a time for disgrace and humiliation. These are the darkest days in Penn State history. These are times to reach out to the victims of Sandusky, at least those who have been identified and haven't been shamed into hiding.This should be a time for Paterno to come forward and apologize for his negligence and the negligence of everyone around him. He's not the only one who passed information about Sandusky's terrible crimes up the chain of command instead of doing everything they could to make sure Sandusky would be on a chain gang.So for nine extra years – nine – Sandusky was allowed to roam freely and, according to grand jury testimony, be in the company of children because of the non-profit agency he helped start in 1977 to help at-risk youth, The Second Mile.Turns out, what those young boys were most at risk of was being sexually abused by Sandusky, who has been charged with assaulting eight boys from The Second Mile program over a 15-year period.And to think that with just one phone call it could have all been over with in 2002. But the graduate assistant who allegedly caught Sandusky in the act inside a Penn State shower didn't call police, instead going to his father. They reportedly went to Paterno, who went to his athletic director, who told one of the university's vice presidents.Nobody called the police. And, apparently, nobody thought it was strange that Sandusky, who retired from coaching in 1999, five years after the alleged abuses began, was still hanging around inside the Penn State football facilities.This story defies rationality. There is so much about it that is so dead wrong. It feels like there is a cult atmosphere in State College, Pa., like it's a place closed off from the real world.Paterno, who built his program on character and who in 46 years of coaching never had his questioned, is now either too proud or too oblivious to do the right thing.With one phone call he could have cemented his Penn State legacy. He could have removed an alleged pedophile from the streets and put him behind bars. With one phone call, Paterno could have stood for everything he preached during his long and illustrious career.Instead, he chose to kick the information upstairs for someone else to deal with. Only that someone else never did. No one did. And this is the mess negligence created.Paterno should be finished as Penn State's football coach. It's not his decision to make. He doesn't get to call this shot.
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