I’ll admit that I’m really not that much of a Penn State fan (I’m a Maryland grad, so I’m legally obligated to hate them). They don’t play in Maryland’s conference, and haven’t played against the Terps in a thousand years. To me, they exist as a television entity. But even in my limited way of understanding their program and its history, I know there’s no way it would exist without Joe Paterno, which is what makes the recent allegations against his longtime defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky so appalling, sad and terrible for all involved.
I am in no way calling Paterno a victim. According to that grand jury report linked above, there was an incident involving Sandusky and a young boy in 1998, which went unpunished, followed by another incident in 2002, which was also swept under the rug. Sandusky was allegedly still accompanying young boys to campus as late as 2007, which just boggles my mind. How was this allowed to happen? Did everyone in a position of authority think this was just “no big deal”? I blame the administration first and foremost, and I blame Paterno. He worked with Sandusky for over 30 years. How many other cases were swept under the rug in the name of keeping the football program at Penn State out of the mud? How many other kids had their lives ruined because no one stood up for what was right?
There comes a point where a “legacy” is just not that important any longer, especially in a case like this. Paterno needs to resign, immediately, because it’s the right thing to do after ignoring what was going on in his program for so long. How can he look his own players in the eye and hold them accountable for their actions on and off the field when he never held others accountable for their own horrific actions?
If in the future, when someone brings up the name Joe Paterno, and immediately associates him with the horrible way his tenure at Penn State ended, it’s a small price to pay for the atonement the entire program needs at this point. If anything, Paterno needs to resign if just for his soul. How can he sleep at night? How does he look at himself in the mirror? He spent his entire life and career at one program, and he sold himself, his college, his profession, his state, some innocent kids, and his family all down the river, and for what? To win football games. To establish a “legacy”. To be remembered as the best ever, at the cost of everything he holds dear. What is that worth now?
The most tragic thing about this whole business is that I know nothing will change. Paterno will coach out the season, and he will retire in a year or two as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, coaches in the history of college football, and they’ll probably name the stadium after him. This will be conveniently swept under the rug, Sandusky will go to jail, and no one will remember it in the greater story of Joe Paterno. We love “winning” in this society so much that we are willing to forget the most appalling and disturbing things and broken lives, and that is the greatest tragedy of all in this story.
More on the Jerry Sandusky scandal from The Washington Post:
Early Lead: Penn State officials head to court
Joe Paterno: “If this is true, we were all fooled.”