You know, I had lots of ideas for this post, what with all the compelling sports stories going on right now. LaRussa, Georgia and Mark Richt's resurgence, The Game of the Century...the list goes on. And then, the entire administration of Penn State University has to go and push the self-destruct button. So..like a lot of people, I've waited. I've just watched this horrific story unfold piece by piece. Every time I thought "OK, now is a good time to write about it", something else reared it's ugly head in this situation. With the announcements made today, I'm just going to jump in with both feet. Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead, men!!
This should be one of the most memorable falls on record in Happy Valley. There was an early snow in the northeast, the Nittany Lions are contending for a conference championship, and Coach Joe Paterno broke the record for most wins by a college football coach. Instead the revered State University nestled in the mountains of Pennsylvania find's itself in the national spotlight for entirely different reasons. Penn State is embroiled in a child sex abuse scandal involving former defensive coach Jerry Sandusky, with the school's entire administration in tow.
Now I'm not going to even try to pretend that I know exactly what happened, who knew what, who saw what or who is legally culpable for this whole mess. But I do know this. The administration of PSU, and the PSU Athletics department failed miserably at it's task in whole. I also know this. Who gives a rat's ass about football right now? Too many people are trying to turn this into a story about Coach Joe Paterno. Admittedly, Paterno played a role in the entire sordid mess, but he should not and cannot be the focus of it. There are many victims, some of who have not even come forward yet, who need to have our ears, and our hearts. Students marched at PSU in support of JoPa? Hey kids, how about marching for the young people who have suffered irreparable damage due to the alleged actions of one man, and the failure to act by an entire administration. That being said, because I'm a sports journalist, I will for now focus on the sports angle of this story.
Right now, in State College, Pa., boards are meeting, resignation papers are flying around, and heads are rolling. People all over are calling for Joe Paterno's immediate resignation. There are rumors that former Pa. Governor Tom Ridge could be stepping in as an interim President for Penn State. The Pennsylvania State Attorney General has called out anyone who might be a victim, know a victim, or have any information regarding this case. This will not end pretty no matter what happens...and the said thing is, it wasn't supposed to end this way. At least not for Joe Paterno. Today, it was reported by the AP, that Coach Joe Paterno has offered his resignation, to commence at the end of the season.
Coach Paterno was nearing the end of his coaching career no matter what. This may or may not have been his last season even without the events of the past week. He broke the coaching wins record, PSU was going to be going to a bowl no matter what, and the program seemed to be on an upswing. It would have been a great time for him to just step away, and receive all the praise, accolades and love that he had so deserved as one of the greatest coaches in history. Now, he'll just step away. His name will forever be mentioned with disgust, and will always be associated with this scandal. Going forward, any attempt at marching him onto a stage to present him with any type of "lifetime achievement" award will be met with skepticism and undoubtedly a huge chorus of "Are you kidding me?" If the allegations that have been presented are true, then in the strictest sense, Joe Paterno did not break the law. He was given information about some alleged inappropriate behavior taking place in the athletic building, and he reported that information to his superiors (laughable term in this case, I know) at the university. So, as the Pa. State Attorney General Linda Kelly stated in her press conference, he "did was he was legally obligated to do", although it was clear in her expressions and tone of voice that she felt differently. And she's right to feel that way.
If Joe Paterno can sleep at night knowing that he did everything within his power (and believe me, that man has a LOT of power) to keep these atrocities from continuing to happen, then I say peace go with thee to him. But I doubt very seriously if he can rest with that knowledge. If the allegations are true, then Paterno did little more than was necessary to try to protect his liability, but still also protect the university and his friend, Sandusky. When the truth finally comes out in this case, and we see just how many victims there were, and how long this had been going on (right now, cases are stated back to 1993), I think it will be clear that Joe Paterno was no less at fault in this case than the doctor who was just recently convicted of the involuntary manslaughter of Michael Jackson. In my opinion, when it comes to these types of crimes, if you stand by and do nothing...you are guilty. As an educator of young people, and an employee of the State, it was his job to protect young people....not his reputation and his friends.
So, so long JoPa. You have forever tarnished the image of the university that you claim to love so much. You were a cog in a dysfunctional machine, and now you will just sit and watch that machine be completely obliterated. It wasn't supposed to end this way for you, and for that I'm very sad. But I can't even say thanks for the memories anymore...because none of us will really ever want to remember this.
UPDATE: Earlier this today, the Penn State Board of Trustees had an emergency meeting in which they decided that the time for change was now. University President Graham Spanier and Coach Paterno were both ousted by the board, effective immediately. And the dominoes continue to tumble...