My mom’s two favorite teams were her beloved Florida Gators and the team coached by Joe Paterno, the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Because of a series of strange family connections, Mom would always tell me, sort of apologetically, that she just felt like she had to pull for Coach Paterno. She thought he was an all-right dude, somebody who could teach young men how to be the right kind of men.
But I think even Mom would have to admit that now, it’s time for Joe to go. And the sooner the better.
After a 46-year reign as the Penn State football coach, having ascended to a pinacle few people ever even aspire to reach, amassing so much power that he could never be fired, he’s about to be fired. Ten years too late, unfortunately.
In case you didn’t know, Joe Paterno has been implicated in a disgusting child abuse scandal. Jerry Sandusky was an assistant coach under Paterno for years. In 2002, a graduate assistant found Sandusky assaulting a 10-year-old boy on campus, in the football athletic facility. The graduate assistant immediately told Paterno. Paterno only told the athletic department, not the police, not child welfare. Nothing.
Hell, nothing was done to Sandusky. As late as last week, this serial child abuser had an office on the Penn State campus. Over decades, Sandusky molested many, many young boys. Police in Pennsylvania have charged him with more than 40 counts of child sexual abuse. That’s almost one count for every year Paterno’s been at Penn State.
Now, I’ve got nothing against Paterno. At least, I didn’t until this came out. The problem I have is that this is just wrong. Paterno did the barest minimum he could so that he could say he’d done something about the incident. The real, true, appalling bare minimum. He told the slightly higher up.
He didn’t follow up. He didn’t go to the police. He didn’t warn the parents of the young boys who continued to spend the night at Sandusky’s house as part of a charitable organization he’d set up. Hell, to me, it looks like Sandusky set up the charitable organization as a way for him to meet young boys.
And Paterno did the bare minimum. If that. He didn’t bar Sandusky from Penn State. He didn’t tell anyone beyond the athletic director. And that, Joe, is just plain wrong.
Since Mr. Sandusky’s arrest Saturday, officials at Penn State — notably its president, Graham B. Spanier, and Mr. Paterno — have come under withering criticism for a failure to act adequately after learning, at different points over the years, that Mr. Sandusky might have been abusing children. Newspapers have called for their resignations; prosecutors have suggested their inaction led to more children being harmed by Mr. Sandusky; and students and faculty at the university have expressed a mix of disgust and confusion, and a hope that much of what prosecutors have charged is not true.
On Monday law enforcement officials said that Mr. Paterno had met his legal obligation in alerting his superiors at the university when he learned of the 2002 allegation against Mr. Sandusky. But they suggested he might well have failed a moral test for what to do when confronted with such a disturbing allegation involving a child not even in his teens. No one at the university alerted the police or pursued the matter to determine the well-being of the child involved. The identity of that child remains unknown, according to the attorney general.
Mr. Paterno has not been charged in the matter, but his failure to report to authorities what he knew about the 2002 incident has become a flashpoint, stirring anger on the board and an outpouring of public criticism about his handling of the matter.
Count me among those just horrified at the passivity that Paterno displayed. This, dudes, is wrong. If you ever see anything like this happening, or learn of something like this happening, the barest minimum any moral, thinking, responsible dude can do is alert police, tell the child welfare offices, do something to ensure predators like Sandusky don’t find any more prey.
I’d like for Joe to say it ain’t so, but, in this case, his denial won’t do. Nothing short of a firing will even begin to approach the merest possibility of coming within a shouting distance of starting to do the right thing. Joe must go. Far, far away.
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