Say It Ain’t So, JoePa

Forget his 409 wins at Penn State, Joe Paterno’s legacy will be his failure to do more.

Things aren’t very happy in Happy Valley these days, where Penn State University has been rocked by perhaps the ugliest scandal in collegiate sports history.

Coach Joe Paterno did what he was obligated to do. He even admitted should have done more. Now he has paid the ultimate price.

But the real victims here are the young boys who were abused on Paterno’s watch.

Anyone who cares about innocent children should read the 23-page Grand Jury report. It is an eye opener.

Page 6 in the report refers to March 1, 2002, when a Penn State graduate assistant, later identified as assistant coach Mike McQueary, witnessed the rape of a young boy by former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky in the showers of the Lasch Football Building on the University Park Campus.

The next morning, the graduate assistant telephoned Paterno and went to his house to report the issue. Paterno then notified his immediate superior at the time, Penn State athletic director Tim Curley.

According to the Grand Jury report, Sandusky’s keys to the locker room were taken away and the incident was reported to The Second Mile, Sandusky’s non-profit organization serving the youth of Pennsylvania.

The graduate assistant was never questioned by University Police, and nobody conducted a further investigation until more than eight years later, when McQueary testified to the Grand Jury last December.

Should Have Done More
Legally, Joe Paterno did what he was supposed to do. He reported the incident to his boss.

But morally, Joe Paterno failed that young boy in the showers and the other victims. As an authority figure, he should have followed up to ensure a proper investigation. He should have gone to the police.

Like others at Penn State, Paterno’s inactivity led to his dismissal.

The Grand Jury report cites seven other young boys who were victimized by Sandusky. No doubt, in time other horrors will surface.

This could have been prevented if Joe Paterno State had done the right thing when he had the opportunity.

“This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more,” Paterno said in a statement earlier this week.

Paterno could have done more, should have done more. Instead of turning away, he could have pursued the situation and made sure the authorities followed up.

But he didn’t, and sadly that will be his legacy.


5 Comments on “Say It Ain’t So, JoePa”

  1. Thomas Brokl says:

    One has to wonder what went on over the last year as the prosecutors waited for Paterno win #409 before charging Sandusky and having the scandal become a public embarrassment. The Grand Jury’s report could have brought all of this out well before the 2011 Season started on September 3, 2011 and certainly before win #409 on October 29, 2011.

    Why did the prosecutors wait until November 4 to charge Sandusky with the crimes?

  2. Thomas Brokl says:

    Writer and radio personality Mark Madden had written about the Sandusky-Paterno relationship as early as April 2011 asking the question, “IIs there a Penn State Cover-Up?”

    Here is what Madden wrote on April 3, 2011:

    The Jerry Sandusky situation seems a matter of failure to connect certain dots, or perhaps unwillingness in that regard. Lots of people besides the former Penn State defensive coordinator have some explaining to do.

    Allegations of improper conduct with an underage male first surfaced in 1998, while Sandusky was still employed by Penn State. That incident allegedly occurred in a shower at Penn State’s on-campus football facility. No charges were filed.

    Sandusky retired the next year, in 1999. He was 55, prime age for a coach. Odd, to say the least – especially with Joe Paterno thought even then to be ready to quit and Sandusky a likely, openly-discussed successor.

    It seems logical to ask: What did Paterno know, and when did he know it? What did Penn State’s administration know, and when did they know it?

    Best-case scenario: Charges are never brought, and Sandusky walks away with his reputation permanently scarred. The rumors, the jokes, the sideways glances – they won’t ever stop. Paterno and Penn State do the great escape.

    Worst-case scenario: Sandusky is charged. Then it seems reasonable to wonder: Did Penn State not make an issue of Sandusky’s alleged behavior in 1998 in exchange for him walking away from the program at an age premature for most coaches? Did Penn State’s considerable influence help get Sandusky off the hook?

    Don’t kid yourself. That could happen. Don’t underestimate the power of Paterno and Penn State in central Pennsylvania when it comes to politicians, the police and the media.

    In 1999, Penn State was rid of Sandusky. His rep was unblemished, which allowed him to continue running a charitable foundation that gave him access to underage males. To be a volunteer assistant with a high school football team, thus gaining access to underage males.

    If Paterno and Penn State knew, but didn’t act, instead facilitating Sandusky’s untroubled retirement – are Paterno and Penn State responsible for untoward acts since committed by Sandusky?

    This is far from an outrageous hypothesis, especially given the convenient timeline.

    Initially accused in 1998. Retires in 1999. Never coaches college football again. Sandusky was very successful at what he did. The architect of Linebacker U. Helped win national championships in 1982 and 1986. Recognized as college football’s top assistant in 1986 and 1999.

    Never any stories about Sandusky being pursued for a high-profile job. Never any rumors about him coming out of retirement.

    But there’s no shortage of stories and rumors about Penn State football sweeping problems under the rug, is there?

    Why did college football let an accomplished coach like Sandusky walk away at 55? Why did he disappear into relative anonymity?

    A grand jury, spurred by a complaint made by a 15-year-old boy in 2009, has been investigating Sandusky for 18 months. Witnesses include Paterno and Penn State athletic director Tim Curley. Interviewing Paterno about a subject like this had to have been one of the single most uncomfortable acts in the history of jurisprudence.

    Plenty of questions remain yet unanswered. Potentially among them: What’s more important, Penn State football or the welfare of a few kids?

    You might not want to hear the answer.

    Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).

  3. Rick Bause says:

    Thomas, as always, thanks for your thoughtful comments

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