548 games coached. 409 wins. 61 years as a coach. 24 bowl wins. Five perfect seasons. Two National Championships. One scandal.
The Freeh Report was released earlier this morning that basically stipulated the most senior officials at Penn State did nothing to stop the actions of Jerry Sandusky. This includes Joe Paterno. The 267 page report points out that no action was taken for over 14 years while Sandusky was a coach at Penn State and later a football camp host.
This unfortunately furthers the assumption that Joe Paterno’s career will now forever be tarnished by what he did not do instead of what he did do. In the 46 years as head coach, Paterno never once violated an NCAA rule. His program preached winning, but also maintained lofty graduation rates for its players and the idea of good sportsmanship. Many of us imagined Paterno riding off into the sunset after his final game when the time was right. No one could have ever foreseen something as horrific and disturbing as this entire situation resulting in the termination of such a legendary coach and his untimely death.
Joe Paterno poses for a picture with Jerry Sandusky
I think many can argue that what Paterno did was not illegal. He did though have a moral obligation to ensure that his assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, no longer was able to sexually abuse children. Still I think many of us need to examine what it would be like if you were in Joe’s shoes.
If someone came to you and told you that one of your closest friends and colleagues was a child rapist, do you think you would go straight to the police? I think many of us might try to take control of the situation to find the exact truth of the matter by ourselves. Many of us would need to be one hundred percent sure before turning a friend in for something so repulsive.
I am in no way condoning what Paterno did. I am simply saying that I can see where the decision to report these accusations wouldn’t be as black and white as it seems.
Sandusky used a charitable organization to lure vulnerable children into his life and eventually take advantage of them. The man is a predator and the man is sick. Instead of shamelessly tipping over news trucks or rioting in the downtown streets of Penn State again, the students and others involved would be better served to raise awareness on an issue that often goes unnoticed. If one were to really step back and look at the entire situation we would see that the real villains are Jerry Sandusky and Tim Curley. Sandusky will be spending the rest of his life in jail for what he did, but never did I see students standing outside his home protesting the disgusting acts he committed against young boys similar to what was done at Paterno’s home.
While we are all in uproar about Paterno not doing more, we should be equally upset that Tim Curley did not do more as well. Curley took the easy way out by stepping down from his position as Athletic Director when these findings first came out in November. He has since wandered off into social obscurity and has not been heard from. Curley was brought the facts about horrible acts taking place on his watch. He too sat idly by while knowing about the sexual abuse of children happening right under his nose.
How can this man have looked Sandusky in the eye and be content in what he was doing as an acting employee of the university? Curley had an obligation to run an athletic department that is not only competitive, but safe for those involved. Curley had all the resources needed to bring justice to these children, but also did nothing to stop it.
As far as the Board of Trustees goes at Penn State, they made the only decision they could when firing Joe Paterno. This decision was about more than just football. This board has to ensure that its students are safe and that the right people are employed to make their university a better place.
If I were an aspiring college student, I could not envision Penn State as a place where I would want to continue learning after such terrible things took place. Such display of inactivity and lack of responsibility is a reflection of the university as whole. Paterno was the highest paid employee by the school. As we all know, with great power comes great responsibility. If I were a parent of a possible football recruit, I could not possibly imagine that Penn State would be the best school to harbor my child and further him in the game of football.
The late Joe Paterno patrolling the sidelines.
Unfortunately there comes a day where actions, or in this case lack of actions, has consequences. Paterno should not be given a pass simply because he is Joe Paterno. This is not like some of the normal slew of college violations we have seen recently about illegal cash benefits or contact with agents. This is about people. These children were forced to perform unspeakable acts that are enough to make anyone sick to their stomach. The bottom line is that all those involved need to be held accountable.
While we all want to remember the bright spots during Paterno’s career, we simply cannot. It should not take such a high profile incident such as this one to get people fired up about sexual abuse against children. The sad part of this story is that it reminds us that sexual abuse against children happens every day. It is scary to think that the most unsuspecting people could be committing these unspeakable acts of sexual violence.
We can all agree that sexual abuse against children is terrible. Despite this, many of us have brushed off other cases concerning the sexual abuse of children as merely another news story that neither affects us nor concerns us. The fact that this particular incident implicates one of the most legendary coaches of all time is why people are so concerned.
This too is sad. Our real concern should go to those children who likely will never be able to lead normal lives and were taken advantage of at a time when they already needed help. The torment these children were experiencing on a daily basis could have been prevented and that is was will always be most troubling