July 23, 2012 Leave a comment
A bronze Joe Paterno stood triumphantly in front of the Penn State football stadium, his eyes beaming through his signature square rimmed glasses; his tie blowing in the breeze. His arm was raised high, forever claiming the superiority of his Nittany Lions. He looked poised to win every battle, withstand any storm. He was the leader that everyone looked up to. He was the man pointing his team and his university in the right direction. He stood as a symbol of a successful college football program that prided itself on its integrity and character. A claim that it can no longer hold.
And so it was that Joe Paterno was once again removed from his position at Penn State. His statue was unceremoniously uprooted by construction workers with jack hammers before being whisked away to its lonely exile, its ultimate fate unknown. It seems difficult to argue against the notion that JoePa brought such a disgrace on himself. His actions and non actions related to the Sandusky case are fairly indefensible. Yes, he should have done more. Yes, he should have made the authorities aware of the allegations. Yes, he should have done everything in his considerable power to make sure that Sandusky never had access to kids again. His priorities, along with those of the Penn State elite, were so far afield that they should be considered criminal. He not only brought shame on himself and the school, but also on the program that he loved so much.
Penn State football deserves all of the NCAA penalties that are coming its way and then some. There is absolutely no excuse for what went on in those locker rooms and Joe Paterno tacitly allowed it to continue when he refused to act. At that moment it no longer became just an issue for the criminal courts, but an issue for NCAA as well. If a football coach is able to overlook such egregious crimes as those committed by Sandusky, how can he possibly be trusted to keep a moral compass when dealing with run of the mill NCAA dilemmas? How can he be trusted to teach his athletes right from wrong when he so clearly doesn’t know the answer himself?
He broke the trust of all those parents whose children he recruited. He broke the trust of all the athletes for whom he was a father figure. He broke the trust of the fans who loved him and the players who played for him. The NCAA has every right punish a program which, through the acts of its coach, ended up hurting so many people.
Yet, Penn State football will live on. It might never be the same as it was before the imminent penalties take effect. But hopeful it will be a better place. A place filled with true integrity and morality, where athletes who take the field can hold their heads up high and fans can cheer knowing that their program has survived and flourished in the face of adversity. And maybe, in time, a place where a bronze Joe Paterno can once again stand triumphantly outside of his stadium, not as a symbol of what is, but as a reminder of what was.