Joe Paterno has announced that he will retire at the end of Penn State’s football season. But in the wake of a scandal that’s shaken the Penn State community, and led to reports that university president Graham Spanier may soon be out of a job, is it enough for the longtime football coach to resign?
No, according to several washingtonpost.com readers, who chatted live with sports columnist Sally Jenkins for more than an hour Wednesday. Jenkins’s latest column notes that there are other figures in the scandal — such as Spanier and Athletic Director Tim Curley — for whom blame might be more appropriately reserved.
Jenkins’ column quotes former FBI agent Ken Lanning, who who spent 35 years profiling pedophiles and notes that the signs are often easy to miss, particularly for acquaintances of pedophiles.
One reader asked why Jenkins felt Paterno did not share the same responsibility as university officials. Jenkins replied:
Paterno is certainly included in the group, but the point of the column is that, as ex-FBI agent Ken Lanning points out, our personal judgments frequently fail when it comes to acquaintance molesters. People close to them have a hard time believing they could be capable of this grotesque crime, despite good evidence. So it's all the more critical that Penn State was obliged to have the right protocols in place to protect kids. When an individual fails, you hope the system provides backup. And it apparently didn't. Apparently there was no system at all.
Other readers wondered if it was enough for Paterno to resign at the end of the season, as opposed to stepping down immediately in light of a grand jury report that states Paterno was told of abuse allegations and reported them to Curley.
One reader wrote:
I agree that Paterno is a poor judge because of his close association with Sandusky. But his failure to follow up after the more responsible university leadership did not turn this knowledge over to the proper authorities (i.e. a law enforcement agency) is a huge leadership failure on his part, especially in light that Sandusky was working closely with children through a charity and a football camp (all activities on PSU’s campus). Shouldn't this cost him his job? Like, right now?
In her response, Jenkins said it’s possible that Paterno couldn’t bring himself to believe the allegations against Sandusky. Jenkins added that if an investigation turns up evidence that Paterno participated in a cover-up, he should be criminally charged.:
Agreed that his lack of follow up should result in his resignation, and it apparently has, voluntarily. The right thing happened. I'm not so sure he should be forced to step down now. I think his failures were human and understandable, from what I've heard thus far: he put his head in the sand because the matter involved a close associate and he couldn't bring himself to admit he made such an error in judging character. Look, think of your best friend, the best person you know. Ask yourself if you could bring yourself to believe he raped a child, and call the cops. Sandusky was regarded as an absolute prince in the community. Now, that said, if evidence turns up that Paterno BELIEVED Sandusky was a molester and did nothing, he should be fired. And if he participated in a cover-up he should be criminally charged.