The college sports world always seems to find itself steeped in controversy. Through the last few years alone, we saw USC vacate wins from a National Championship season thanks to improper benefits received by Reggie Bush followed by an investigation and then subsequent resignation of Jim Tressel from Ohio State thanks to improper benefits received by…well…practically half of his starters including Terrelle Pryor. Even the term “student-athlete” has become controversial in and of itself over the last decade. And how does this BCS Bowl System work and where are those millions of dollars in bowl earnings allocated by season’s end? College sports – football in particular – has and will continue to be a hotbed of touchy issues that makes for great water-cooler blabber and, most times, meaningless arguments.
Joe Paterno, the iconic head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions and winningest coach of all time in Division I Football, is worthy of the respect and admiration by his piers and the praise heaped on by his loyal following at Happy Valley. Even coaching in his 62nd season, he has already been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and is boasting an 8-1 record atop the Big 10 with a great shot at winning yet another Big 10 championship. Though I never graduated from Penn State myself, I too have come to appreciate all that Paterno has achieved in his storied career and find it hard to picture a College Football season moving forward without him.
That said, Penn State University and College Football should think about moving forward without him.
Former PSU Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky has been charged with 40 counts of sexual abuse-related charges while AD Tim Curley and VP Gary Schultz are charged with perjury linked to a cover-up of an incident that took place between Sandusky and a 10 year old boy. Sandusky, who worked with at-risk kids through his Second Mile charity, is said to have abused or made sexual advances on eight boys between 1994 and 2009. Curley and Schultz are accused of not reporting an incident (that took place in 2002 and was witnessed by a former graduate assistant) to the proper authorities and could each face up 7 years in prison if convicted. The former graduate assistant said that he first reported the incident to Paterno who then brought the information to Curley and Schultz to be dealt with.
No charges have been filed against Joe Paterno and in a statement said of the graduate assistant’s report that he “at no time related to me the very specific actions contained in the grand jury report.” He also said that he “did what I was supposed to do with the one charge brought to my attention” referring to his reporting the incident to his superiors at the very least, while neglecting to contact the police (a Pennsylvania state law). It seems unlikely that anything will happen to Paterno and that, for me, is part of the problem.
Debates rage on about college athletes being paid or accepting improper benefits or the monopoly that is the NCAA and big bowl games and so on and so forth – the discussion is harmless and really doesn’t have all that much of an impact on the players or the school unless, of course, they’re caught. When they’re caught, the talk over the NCAA’s judicial power (judge and jury) and the hypocrisy that exists in college sports becomes a hot topic once more and, at the end of day, we move on and find that there are far more important things to be concerned with. Like our nation’s economic state or the idea of pulling our troops out of Afghanistan by year’s end. Like looking for a job or wondering how we can help the victims of the earthquake in Turkey. Like children who are sexually abused and the monsters that cover up the crime.
Oh…sorry. We seem to be talking about college football again.
I don’t want to hear any apologists. It’s rare that I ever make a statement so demonstrative – I like to try to see things from another perspective, but this is different. I don’t care what side of the fence you’re on when we’re talking about all of the other college sport short-comings and controversial allegations – this is disturbing and more than just the AD and VP need to be held accountable for the covering up what happened in back in 2002.
I was insulted by Paterno’s statement (a la Scott Paterno who is serving as his father’s spokesman) and I’d be even more beside myself if he really believes he did everything he could concerning the accusations made against Sandusky. It’s confusing when you read that he was unaware of the specifics of the incident and it’s even harder to picture what the graduate assistant could have said that might have sounded so vague, “Uh, Coach Paterno…I saw something inappropriate in the locker room between Sandusky and…uh…someone else.”
Care to be more specific?
Good enough! I’ll make a note of it and we’ll move on.
There is no point in digging deeper into why Schultz and Curley covered up for Sandusky – whether it was for the sake of saving face, protecting a dear friend and employee (which I find hard to believe), or because they simply didn’t care – none of that matters at this point. So long as we know for certain that they knew, they should be held responsible and convicted. People, and the jury especially, are going to want to know what they knew and when they knew it and I’m sure the answers will eventually bubble up to the surface whether willingly or not, but what happens to Paterno?
Is it too far-fetched to believe he’s going to get a pass on this one? Not necessarily. Does he owe us and, more importantly, thenfamilies of those children Sandusky would later accost after 2002 a better explanation? Absolutely. Should he have done what anybody should have done and simply reported that behavior to the cops?
Do I need to answer that last question?
I can only imagine how hurt the people of Penn State University must feel having to deal with such a sordid issue. It’s not the issue that any other college or university has had to deal with in my lifetime at least and it would be tough to watch your beloved Joe Paterno’s reputation be sullied by such a disturbing chain of events. He has done so much for the University and maybe it’s not unreasonable to give him the benefit of the doubt on this one. In a sports world full of unethical, immoral people looking to get ahead at the expense of their integrity as a human being, Paterno has gone against the grain and tried to instill good values into his players and has always led by good example. It’s hard to imagine PSU moving forward without their saintly man in the coke-bottle glasses – that beacon who led by good example.
And it’s hard to imagine how those families and young men and boys feel at this moment in time too. In fact, I don’t want to know what that feels like. And there’s much of this we could have avoided had that saintly man in the coke-bottle glasses just spoken up – like he would have wanted anybody else to do. So hopefully PSU will take a tip from their revered head football coach and lead by example starting with the firing of Joe Paterno. Or maybe they won’t. Because whatever happens, unfortunately, will just not be good enough.