The Lost and now Fired Legacy of Joe Paterno
Nearly Too little and far too late...and Penn State’s Board of Trustees made the only decision they could late Wednesday night informing legendary Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno that after 46 years he was fired, done, gone, out as Penn State’s head football coach ending one of the most dizzying days in college sports history. The Board cited it was in the best interests of Penn State to take the moral ground and remove Joe Paterno has the school’s football coach – effective immediately.
Earlier Wednesday, Joe Paterno announced his retirement at season’s end after 46 years as Penn State’s head football coach, that was until Wednesday evenings Penn State Board of Trustees announcement they had had enough – JoePa is finished at Penn State. The Board of Trustees made it clear they believed it was not in the best interests Paterno be allowed to EVER again coach at Penn State.
The National Football Foundation announced that the 2011 John L. Toner Award for an outstanding athletic director (dedicated to college football) which was to be presented to Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley at a December event will be vacated and not offered to any candidate this year. The award is presented annually by the foundation to an athletic director who has demonstrated “superior administrative abilities and shown outstanding dedication to college athletics and particularly college football.”
In announcing the award in June, the foundation said Curley's “passion for winning has also extended to the classroom with the NCAA reporting in 2010 that Penn State student-athletes compiled a school-record 90 percent Graduation Success Rate, 11 points higher than the national average for schools in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision.” The NFF did what was right, setting up for the body blow Penn State dealt Joe Paterno Wednesday evening.
The now disgraced and fired Paterno offered this statement in announcing his retirement, without first asking the University’s permission: “I am absolutely devastated by the developments in this case. I grieve for the children and their families, and I pray for their comfort and relief.
“I have come to work every day for the last 61 years with one clear goal in mind: To serve the best interests of this University and the young men who have been entrusted to my care. I have the same goal today.
“That's why I have decided to announce my retirement effective at the end of this season. At this moment the Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status. They have far more important matters to address. I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can.
“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.
“My goals now are to keep my commitments to my players and staff and finish the season with dignity and determination. And then I will spend the rest of my life doing everything I can to help this University.”
The statement including the following “With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more” – that sums up what has gone so wrong at Penn State. According to Grand Jury records, Paterno knew about the allegations in 2002. Legally, the 84-year old Hall of Fame football coach did what he had to do – informed his superior Tim Curley.
Let’s make two points. Tim Curley may technically be Paterno’s boss, but after 62 seasons and 46 as the school’s money-making football coach – Joe Paterno is his own boss. How could Paterno sit by and NOT call the police when he realized Curley wasn’t ready to do the right thing. Morally and ethically, anyone who didn’t call the police about the allegations of child sexual abuse against former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, are just as guilty as Curley who is facing charges – especially in the court of public opinion.
SI.com’s Michael McCann looked at whether Paterno could be held legally responsible for not reporting the Sandusky allegations then Penn State graduate assistant Mike McQueary witnessed and reported to Paterno.
According to McCann: “Under Pennsylvania law, as in other jurisdictions, perjury refers to knowingly lying while under oath. Obstruction of justice describes interference with the administration of justice, such as by concealing evidence or delaying or frustrating a criminal investigation. While Paterno has thus far escaped these criminal charges, his statements and behavior suggest that he remains vulnerable to them. That is particularly evident when considering troubling inconsistencies between Paterno's testimony to the grand jury that investigated Sandusky and the testimony of Penn State assistant Mike McQueary.”
Paterno will have to live with himself for the rest of his life – and with the shame and the complete loss of a legacy he built over a lifetime – lost by his inaction. Everyday he looks in the mirror, he’ll be staring at an iconic figure who, when all is said and done, isn’t the man he (and we) believed he was. One question Paterno has to ask himself – but for the grace of God – what would Paterno have done if he walked into the Penn State football locker room and caught Sandusky doing what he has been accused of, to his son or grandson?
“Sometimes it's repressed in victims and they don't understand it until their mid-20s,” said Dr. William Bainbridge, a distinguished research professor at the University of Dayton and a sexual abuse expert who has been involved in cases in 35 states, told ESPN.
“The abuse often leads to poor self-esteem, an inability to stand up for your own rights, depression, helplessness... Some victims find it difficult to get involved in meaningful relationships. They have trouble holding jobs. They strike out at their families because they feel ashamed of themselves, or they feel betrayed by their families or their institution, school, church, whatever it might be.”
The New York Times offered an Op-Ed in Wednesday’s paper that included: “Paterno, who has cast himself for 46 years as a moral compass teaching his “kids” values, testified that he did not call the police at the time either. The family man who had faced difficult moments at Brown University as a poor Italian with a Brooklyn accent must have decided that his reputation was more important than justice.”
Paterno’s resignation statement concludes with: “My goals now are to keep my commitments to my players and staff and finish the season with dignity and determination.”
Sorry coach – you lost any right to ‘dignity’ when you failed to do what a leader, what a real man would have done – do the right thing and make sure Jerry Sandusky was forced to face the allegations he’ll now have to deal with in 2011 that he should have faced in 2002. How many boys could Paterno have saved? Sandusky was reportedly on Penn State’s campus as late as last week. Sandusky was allowed to conduct football camps at Penn State as recently as two years ago – where was Penn State and where was Joe Paterno when Jerry Sandusky was allowed to roam the Penn State campus?
The business of college football continues unabated even as this sordid tale seemingly gets worse. The Harrisburg Patriot reported that as of 11 a.m. Wednesday, the most accessible tickets on StubHub.com were going for $100. Thirty minutes later, the cheapest ticket available was in the upper portion of the stadium at a cost of $123. The most expensive were on the lower level sideline at a cost of $375.
Moments later, there were more tickets available at even higher prices, with a max price of $495 per ticket on the club level in section. Moments after that, multiple sets of tickets were being listed for $500 or more.
There has been a great deal of criticism directed at Penn State students and the support a group of students demonstrated at Paterno’s home Tuesday evening. More than 1,000 students crowded around Paterno’s home welcoming the coach home after his team’s football practice. While suggesting a prayer should be said for the victims (where was that prayer in 2002 when Joe first learned of the allegations), Paterno led the students in a Penn State football cheer.
How could anyone cheer for Penn State football when the program is embroiled in the worst story in the history of college football? As unfortunate and as delusional as the students who cheered for Penn State in front of Paterno’s home were Tuesday evening, it’s worth noting Penn State’s student body is looking at this story insulated from the outside world and as wrong as it may appear – angry at the world around them for the complete condemnation directed at their school and at Paterno. Wednesday night Penn State’s Board of Trustees made it clear – they had had enough to JoePa!!
Nike statement on Penn State: "Our relationship with Penn State remains unchanged. We are deeply disturbed by the claims brought forth in the indictments. We will continue to monitor the situation closely." Time for Nike to Just Do It and dump Penn State for being an immoral school of ill repute.
Mark C. Sherburne, acting athletic director at Penn State, released a statement late Wednesday on the PSU athletics website regarding the charges against Sandusky. Sherburne, who took the place of Tim Curley when he stepped down, said the following:
“The Penn State athletics family is devastated by the details in the Grand Jury presentment. Our hearts go out to the children involved and their families.
“Every day we are entrusted with the lives of young people, and we do not – nor have we ever – taken that trust lightly. We are outraged that a valued trust has been broken. We can promise you that we are doing everything in our power to restore that broken trust. Everyone within athletics – coaches, administrators, staff and student-athletes -- are committed to this pledge.”
That decision will be made by Penn State’s Board of Trustee’s who released the following statement Tuesday night before their historic decision Wednesday evening:
“The Board of Trustees of The Pennsylvania State University is outraged by the horrifying details contained in the Grand Jury Report. As parents, alumni and members of the Penn State Community, our hearts go out to all of those impacted by these terrible events, especially the tragedies involving children and their families. We cannot begin to express the combination of sorrow and anger that we feel about the allegations surrounding Jerry Sandusky. We hear those of you who feel betrayed and we want to assure all of you that the Board will take swift, decisive action.
“At its regular meeting on Friday, November 11, 2011, the Board will appoint a Special Committee, members of which are currently being identified, to undertake a full and complete investigation of the circumstances that gave rise to the Grand Jury Report. This Special Committee will be commissioned to determine what failures occurred, who is responsible and what measures are necessary to insure that this never happens at our University again and that those responsible are held fully accountable.
“The Special Committee will have whatever resources are necessary to thoroughly fulfill its charge, including independent counsel and investigative teams, and there will be no restrictions placed on its scope or activities. Upon the completion of this investigation, a complete report will be presented at a future public session of the Board of Trustees.
“Penn State has always strived for honesty, integrity and the highest moral standards in all of its programs. We will not tolerate any violation of these principles. We educate over 95,000 students every year and we take this responsibility very seriously. We are dedicated to protecting those who are placed in our care. We promise you that we are committed to restoring public trust in the University.”
Honesty, integrity and honor are gone from the football program at Penn State. It will took a dramatic step forward for Penn State’s reputation to begin its journey back Wednesday evening when Penn State’s Board of Trustees did what they had to do – fired Joe Paterno.
Penn State’s Board of Trustees needed to ask itself if the school really wants to see Paterno’s perverted farewell tour head to a bowl game. And even more important, what bowl game wanted to risk the Paterno show spending their holidays with their supporters, sponsors and fans? Two former football players and a student manager are members of the Penn State Board of Trustees. Time for the men Paterno coached did the right thing and ended Paterno’s reign at Penn State and that’s exactly what they did. Turning a blind eye to Jerry Sandusky was the price Joe Paterno must be forced to pay. Joe Paterno lost the right to dictate when and how he wanted to retire on the day he decided to look the other way. Paterno isn’t an alleged child abuser but if the allegations against Sandusky are proven in a court of law, Paterno and everyone who covered this up, are guilty by association enablers of this crime. According to Wikipedia: “When a scandal breaks, the discovery of an attempt to cover up is often regarded as even more reprehensible than the original deeds.”
For Sports Business News, this is Howard Bloom