Opinion corner: Paterno’s legacy shreddedThere are literally hundreds of thousands of Penn State University alums who graduated from the University Park, Pa., school during Joe Paterno’s 45-year tenure as head football coach.
There are literally hundreds of thousands of Penn State University alums who graduated from the University Park, Pa., school during Joe Paterno’s 45-year tenure as head football coach.
No choice regarding the fate of the famous “Joe Pa” statue outside Beaver Stadium could have appeased them all, but the university’s decision Sunday to take down the 900-pound bronze tribute to the former coaching icon was a necessary one.
Keeping the sculpture intact and in its place would have only reminded the public about Paterno’s role in the now-infamous Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal that forced the NCAA’s hand to impose some of the heaviest sanctions in college football history.
It would have reminded the public during each and every Penn State home game that the former all-time winningest coach in college football history (until 111 wins were vacated Monday) knowingly covered up for the horrible transgressions of a child molester, according to a report issued earlier this month by former head of the FBI Louis Freeh.
In the eyes of some, I’m sure Joe Paterno will always be a legend. He’ll always be one of the greatest coaches of all time. He’ll always be one of the top molders of young men that college football has ever seen.
In the eyes of others, his legend is now tarnished. His reputation is now heavily flawed. He’ll be most known not for what he was able to accomplish on the football field, but rather what he failed to accomplish in publicizing information about Sandusky.
Six words Paterno uttered outside his home near University Park in November 2011 will forever be his demise: “I wish I had done more.”
Now with Freeh’s report indicating that Paterno was made aware of Sandusky’s child molestation as far back as 1998 and should have done more as of 14 years ago, it makes it even more difficult to forgive what Paterno did.
Paterno was by no means the monster that his former defensive coordinator Sandusky was proven to be in a court of law earlier this month. Paterno was, by almost all accounts, an extremely generous and philanthropic individual who cared deeply about Penn State University.
However, being an excellent man and a top-notch football coach can never excuse Paterno from his failure to shed light on Sandusky’s behavior all the while he knew what had taken place.
It’s not that we, as the public, hold Paterno to a higher standard given his role at Penn State. It’s that we hold him to the standard we would expect of anyone, regardless of their prominence, if put in that situation.
An asterisk need not go beside his name when writing the history books about Joe Paterno the football coach. He’s now been reduced to 298 all-time wins and that’s fair enough.
However, those same books must include a simple paragraph stating his role in one of the most horrific scandals to hit college football in the sport’s history.
Willhide is a news writer at the Sun and frequent contributor to the Opinion Corner