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Paterno is still the greatest college coach we will ever see

Zamarripa is a junior news-Internet and English double major and can be contacted at eduardo.tamezzamarippa@drake.edu

I’m sure you’ve heard about the Penn State University scandal by now, about what a sick man did and what university officials and a certain coach failed to do. The story has broken out in every possible medium. Penn State alumni have burned their diplomas. People have lost their jobs, and others are being asked to resign. Before getting ahead of ourselves and asking that we chop the head of every Penn State employee, it’s important to drown out the noise and explain rationally what exactly went down in that locker room and what exactly were the responsibilities of those involved.

In March of 2002, Jerry Sandusky, who was the Penn State defensive coordinator for 22 seasons but had retired in 1999, was seen in the locker room shower facility, by then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary, having sexual intercourse with a 10-year old boy. McQueary then told head coach Joe Paterno that he had seen something “inappropriate” involving Sandusky in the team’s showers.

Paterno met with Athletic Director Tim Curley the next day and told him what McQueary had told him. Curley and Gary Schultz, Penn State’s senior vice president for finance and business, then prohibited Sandusky from bringing children anywhere near the football facilities. This decision was then approved by Penn State President Graham Spanier.

The questions are endless. How much did these individuals know about what was going on? Why did they protect Sandusky? Why didn’t they contact the authorities?

Sandusky has been charged with 40 counts of sex crimes against young boys, and at least 20 of those incidents occurred when he was still employed at Penn State. Schultz and Curley are facing charges of perjury and of failing to report a suspected child abuse.

Paterno is not facing any charges because he completed his legal obligation and nothing more. That’s why we’re here discussing Paterno’s coaching fate and moral compass. Why didn’t the most influential man in Penn State history go further? Why didn’t he call the police? Paterno conformed with fulfilling his legal obligation and not his moral obligation.

It must be said that there is still a debate as to what McQueary told the legendary head coach. Paterno claims that McQueary did not divulge the details and concerns about the situation like he did with the grand jury investigation.

At worst, Paterno protected his employers and his long-time trusted coordinator, which caused a disgusting man to roam free for eight extra years. At best, Paterno really did not know what was going on with Sandusky and thought he had done enough by reporting the incident to his boss.

On Wednesday morning, Paterno released a statement that said he will step down from his coaching position at the end of the season.

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

For 46 seasons as a head coach, “Joe Pa” has been the greatest college coach we have ever seen. He has two national championships, three Big Ten titles, five undefeated seasons and 409 wins (Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1993). We don’t have to sit here and talk about how terrific of a coach Paterno is, or how much he has done to uphold the always inconsistent values of a student-athlete in college. Paterno has preached football as much as he has preached education in his time at Penn State. But after this scandal, his reputation will never be the same. I can’t tell you if Paterno should or should not have been fired, or if he should step down immediately or at the end of the season. But what I can say is that making Paterno go away is not going to stop the bigger issue at hand here.

We’ve been sitting here vilifying Joe Pa and every Penn State official that failed to report this to the authorities, and we have drifted the attention away from the real monster: Sandusky. Maybe having Spanier or Paterno step down will send a message. However, in reality, Penn State screwed up and it will never be able to clean up this mess, no matter who gets fired.  What these men failed to do should not be taken lightly; there has to be consequences. But I ask that we do not lose focus of what Sandusky did and of what we need to do to solve the larger issue of child sexual assaults.

That being said, when I hear about Penn State alumni burning their diplomas and all that nonsense, I want to ask these people to please stop. Stop now, because the integrity of a great institution and a great athletic program can’t be defined by the haunting mistakes of a deranged man. This can’t be a determining factor when high school students are selecting a college in their senior years.

Assuming that this has never happened before in sports would be shortsighted. In the spirit of being positive, I hope that this situation becomes a landmark of how not to handle a situation like this, and that maybe people will begin reporting an incident WHENEVER they suspect any sexual activity between an adult and a minor.

Sandusky will face the consequences of his actions. Schultz and Curley will pay for their mistakes. Spanier will probably get the axe. As for Joe Pa, he will step down from head coaching duties at the end of the season. He will be granted the opportunity to carry out his last season as a Penn State head coach.

I really hope Paterno’s legacy will not be tarnished. This is not how his historic career was supposed to end. Remember a lifetime of integrity, not a moment of conflicting ethical values where Paterno failed to live up to his grandeur.

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2 Comments

  1. Student November 9, 2011

    Tons of legendary coaches have their legends tarnished. Bob Knight anyone?

  2. Padre November 11, 2011

    I am surprised that while you have the facts of the story accurate, you are still more concerned about Paterno’s “legend” becoming tarnished. Mr. Paterno and others had the opportunity to step up and protect children from sexual abuse and chose not to do everything in their power. This was not “a moment of conflicting ethical value” but rather a decision made that endangered other children from being sexually abused and raped. There is no excuse acceptable and the Regents at Penn State took appropriate action.

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