Joe Paterno R.I.P. – You Deserved Better
Joe Paterno was laid to rest earlier today. Rest is what Jo Pa deserved after his vilification in the Jerry Sandusky scandal and disgraceful ouster by his beloved Penn State.
Joe Paterno passed away at age 85 from complications from metastatic small cell carcinoma of the lung. While he was suffering from treatable lung cancer, and a broken pelvis, the real cause of death was a broken heart.
Joe Pa is the football equivalent of John Wooden. No one will probably ever beat his records of 409 victories and 5 undefeated seasons with a major college team, not to mention 61 years with one school, 46 as head coach. Too many coaches today are vagabonds lacking loyalty to any program, including their alma maters.
He was devoted to Pennsylvania State University. He may be the only football coach whose name is on the university library. Joe Pa and his family gave over $4 million to Penn State through the years. His salary of slightly over $1 million, was low. The legendary coach was the public face of Penn State.
Public universities are not as highly regarded in the Mid Atlantic and Northeast states as they are in the West and South. The region is a bastion of elite private education, but Penn State rode Joe Pa to academic as well as athletic prominence. He drove the once sleepy Penn State into the mighty Big Ten.
He was a source of pride to his family, his team, Penn State University, and the Penn State family. His was one of the few athletic programs not to receive a visit from the NCAA.
He coached past his prime, but he kept winning. President Graham Spanier wanted him out in 2004 after several unsuccessful seasons, but Joe Pa’s team went 11-1 the next year, beating Bobby Bowden’s Florida State in the Orange Bowl. He was a winner every season since.
His life fell apart on Saturday, November 5, 2011, when it was announced that former Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky was arrested for sexually abusing young boys. Also indicted for perjury were Athletic director Tim Curley and Vice President – CFO Gary Schultz, to whom the Penn State campus police reported. The Penn State Board of Trustees was blindsided by the indictments. I’ve read the leaked Grand Jury Report; the sordid report is damning.
Coach Paterno, as well as Assistant Coach Mike McQueary, received blame for not stopping Sandusky’s predations. A tsunami of national blame overtook the Coach, eventhough both he and McQueary reported the incident to superiors. Coach McQueary also met with both Curley and Schultz to discuss what he witnessed. They fulfilled their legal responsibilities.
Penn State’s Board of Trustees panicked on November 9. They felt President Spanler had sandbagged them on the seriousness of the developing Sandusky scandal. Thus, they fired him. No Board likes unpleasant surprises. But they also voted to terminate Coach Paterno, the most loyal employee Penn State ever had. The Board’s Vice Chair phoned the coach at 10:00PM, telling him the University “no longer needed his services.” – a totally classless act.
The two pillars of Joe Paternos life were his family and Penn State. The Trustees stripped him of Penn State.
As the students and alumni erupted over the treatment of the beloved coach, board member Joel Myers said the Coach was fired because while he fulfilled his legal responsibilities, he did not meet his moral responsibilities. Board member Mark Dambly echoed these remarks, as once again they tried to justify their shameful act by degrading the coach.
The students and alumni were not condoning pedophiles, but instinctively felt Coach Paterno should not be the fall guy for the Board’s failures. Both the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Board have since resigned their positions on the Board, but remain as trustees of Penn State. They should have resigned from the Board.
The Board lost control of the scandal as it rushed to judgment. It also forgot the American presumption of innocence until proven guilty. (I do believe based on the Grand Jury report that Sandusky is guilty, but the state still has to prove it). No one has yet been found guilty, except in the court of public opinion, or pled guilty. The indicted parties have proclaimed their innocence. No one has yet had their day in court while the prosecution’s case has been laid out in the leaked Grand Jury report.
Joseph Vincent Paterno deserved better.