Penn State University: The House That JoePa built. A man who spent the last 61 years of his life at the famed college, 46 of which as the head coach of the football team. The legacy he created there with all the notoriety and championships lost in a single night when the university’s board of trustees fired him over allegations he failed to do more when assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was molesting young boys on campus over a period of years.
It will be the first time in more than half a century that Joe Paterno won’t be included in the final Penn State home football game of the season this Saturday.
You don’t need to be a genius to know that for most of his tenure, JoePa was seen as the anointed ruler of Penn State and for him to not have done more when hearing about sexual molestation of a child being done under his watch is unconscionable. But what’s even worse has been the reaction of fans and some of the student body: putting football, of all things, ahead of children who’ve been victimized.
Attention students and fans: children were RAPED on your college campus!
It’s hard to imagine that Joe didn’t know what was going on under his nose. When Austin Scott, a promising running back recruited from my home town, was unjustly accused of raping a woman, Paterno and company were quick to lay judgement on him and kick him off the team. Although he was eventually vindicated, his tenure at the university and any possible chance of a career in the NFL was ruined. Joe and the school pounced on that incident without knowing all the facts but then some how took a blind eye to a horrific incident involving an assistant coach?
Once the announcement of Paterno’s immediate firing was made public, students were seen railing in the streets and tipping over a news van. Police needed to be called in to pepper spray them in an attempt to restore order. A scene we might have seen during the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. And why? Not because a black woman had to sit at the back of the bus or couldn’t drink from a “White’s Only” fountain. No, the students were raising hell because a football coach got fired.
You can talk about tradition and JoePa’s legacy all you want. I’ve even heard people calling it an outrage at how the Trustees fired him over the phone. “What about the 40 some years he coached?” they would scream. “Surely there’s something to be said for loyalty right?”
My mother worked for the same hospital for forty years. Pretty much gave her life to that place. Then a few days ago while at work she was called and told that her position was eliminated effective immediately. No reason given at all. She was just let go. But I think no reason at all (it’s just business) is still better than why Joe was let go.
You know, I was once a student of Penn State (albeit only for one semester) and never got the chance to experience the whole “University Park” and football Saturday experience. But I tend to think that even if I did I’d still be one of the ones calling for Paterno’s ouster. How people can look past what was done there just because it’s football season is as much of a tragedy as what actually happened there.
So what can Paterno do now? How about using his king-like powers for the final time and telling his subjects that the University did the right thing for the school and end the senseless protests. Stop making the University and America for that matter look bad.
In the end Sandusky will get what he deserves, any evidence of a cover-up will come to light and the University will find another coach to carry on the tradition. I’m sure at some point down the road there will also be a Joe Paterno tribute day to celebrate being the all time winningest coach in Division 1 football.
But before you put on your PSU jersey and start chanting “WE ARE” for the final home game this Saturday, ask yourself one question:
If someone came to you distraught and told you that an old man was sodomizing young boys in your house – what would you do?