Following the North Star

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Death of a Legend & the Murder of Morality

I was 5 years old when Joe Paterno started coaching at Penn State University in 1966. He remained Head Coach until November of 2011, 45 years later. His "retirement" came on the heals of one of the worst scandals to rock college athletics; The grand jury indictment of former Penn State Defensive Coordinator and long time Paterno associate, Jerry Sandusky on child molestation charges.

The grand jury testimony revealed that Sandusky had been accused of molestation over a period of 15 years, and that Joe Paterno was aware of the alegations for at least 9 of those years. To make matters worse, in 2002, Penn State Graduate Assistant Coach Mike McQuery, reported seeing Sandusky in the Penn State Athletic Building showers with a young boy to Joe Paterno. McQueary told him he'd seen Sandusky who was "fondling a young boy" in the showers of the Lasch Building. "It was of sexual nature. I'm not sure exactly what it was. I didn't push Mike ... because he was obviously very upset," according to his testimony."I was in a little bit of a dilemma ... because Sandusky didn't work for me anymore," it continues. Paterno testified that he told McQueary he would contact the appropriate people at Penn State.

Paterno passed the information up his "chain of command" to the Athletic Director, Tim Curley, and school President, Graham Spanier. According to Pennsylvania State Law, there was nothing more that Paterno was obligated to do. The question remains as to why "Jo Pa" did not do more to follow up upon the heinous accusations brought before him against one of his long time Penn State Football associates. Unfortunaely we'll never know.

Penn State University fired long-time coach Joe Paterno and President Graham Spanier on Nov. 9, 2011, four days after Sandusky was initially arrested. Athletic Director Tim Curley and a Vice President, Gary Schultz, are accused of perjury and failing to report suspected child abuse. Both have stepped down from their posts.

In a statement before he was fired, Paterno said, "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."

It should be noted that Coach Paterno was fired by the Penn State Board of Trustees shortly after he had announced he would be retiring at the end of the season. It was 3 days before the final game of the season, Senior Day, and a chance to gain a BCS Bowl Game berth with a Saturday victory against Nebraska when the "Fall of a Legend" occured. It was a heartbreaking experience to watch the game that Saturday afternoon with so many young people in tears. From the cheerleaders, to the players, to the legends who were in the stands. There wasn't a dry eye in the house. Who was saved?

It was obvious that the Penn State Board of Tru$tee$ had to "punish" someone for the horrible allegations against Jerry Sandusky under the noses of the Football Program. As "Joe Pa" was seen as the inimitable plillar of decency in college sports, he was the one ultimately responsible for any lack thereof. Joe Paterno was promptly shamed and publicly blamed, thereby seperating the Tru$tee$ from any accountability in the scandal. The "Legend had Fallen" and Paterno was promptly silenced.

What a sad tragedy of false "morality" displayed by the cowardly Board of Tru$tee$ to think that the crime of child abuse can be "washed away" with the sacrificial execution of 'Joe Pa', the most admired and winningest Coach in College Football. It was the Board$ responsibility to keep Paterno's legacy intact and deal with the allegations against Sandusky. Not to use him as a scapegoat. An opportunity to address an important issue on the national stage was missed. It was not necessary to punish the entire student body 3 days before the biggest day of their young lives in order to "save" Penn Sate's image. Penn State's impeccible image of integrity was due in large part to Coach Joe Paterno.

We all needed to hear an in depth explanation from Joe Pa. Everyman who looked up to him, everyone who played for him, everyone whose life was impacted by him needed to understand why. Why, we, as men of value and integrity, can't talk about sex abuse, let alone admit it is rampant, and why we have not done anything to stop it. You can rest assured that if a woman had walked into the shower with Sandusky and a young boy together as alleged, this story would not be an issue today.

This is the silent secret that men cannot seem to be able to talk about. Jo Pa might have been able to start the dialogue for us had he not been so thoroughly disgraced by the Board of Tru$tee$.

10 days after Joe's firing, he was admited to the hospital for lung cancer. A little more than 2 months after his firing and the breaking of the Sandusky scandal, on Sunday, January 22nd, 2012, Joe Paterno died.

There is little doubt in the minds of those who knew Joe Pa, (Lou Holtz, Matt Millen, Reece Davis) that his firing, as a result of the Sandusky scandal, was what ultimately killed him. There is no doubt in my mind that Joe Paterno's firing by a cowardly Board of Tru$tee$ and the reverberating impact their decision has had on thousands of individuals was the ultimate murder of morality.

Conrad Sage

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