Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Observations on Penn State and JoePa

This just hurts. Ever since the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal broke I have been avoiding the subject like the plague. I didn't want to talk about it and failed, I didn't want to read about and failed, and totally didn't want to write about it but I can't help myself. Penn State has been my anchor for years, it really has helped me to survive more than anything other than my family and friends so it does hurt like hell to see it all end this way. No matter how it plays out the name Joe Paterno will never sound quite the same again and that's just sad.

Former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky is alleged to have sexually abused eight boys over more than a ten years, both before and after his retirement from the team in 1999. One incident in 2002 was witnessed by an assistant coach and reported to Joe Paterno who reported it to other athletic department officials including Athletic Director Tim Curley who was charged Monday for failing to report the information to the police, a crime in Pennsylvania. He was also charged with perjury in testimony to a grand jury and he resigned later in the day. Paterno, who was not charged or investigated, has been criticized for not calling the police himself or simply following up on what he had been told. Pennsylvania state police Commissioner Frank Noonan said Monday that Paterno fulfilled his legal requirement when he told his superior of the 2002 assault but he also questioned whether Paterno had a moral responsibility to do more. He did.

One of the blessings of Penn State is that it is situated in the mountains of central Pennsylvania with the nearest major media outlet an hour to the south in Harrisburg, literally down the mountain. That blessing is turning into a curse now with everybody from the BBC to Al Jazerra swooping into Happy Valley with seemingly one thing on their mind, Joe must go. I read one article in which the writer went so far as to call Beaver Stadium an “empty cavernous monument to JoePa's failed program.” Tarnished yes but to call a program with the highest graduation rate in the NCAA history failed is just shear stupidity. As long as I have been associated with Penn State there have been people both inside and outside the University who just wanted to bring Paterno down. I'll call it the Lance Armstrong effect, you can't possibly be that good with out cheating so there must be something hiding somewhere and if they just dig deep enough they'll find it. They failed every time but now it seems they have been handed a nuclear option with the timer winding down to zero.

I'm just terribly torn because I know how I would feel under any other circumstances and I know how I feel now. I just can't bring myself to turn on a man who has meant so much to my school. I do believe Paterno, how can I not, but I also know he is terribly wrong. At the bare minimum he should have pushed his superiors for some kind of public investigation and he should have condemned Sandusky's actions, friendship only goes so far. Another cop-out is for anybody to say it was out of his hands because of one thing I am certain, whatever Joe wants in Happy Valley Joe gets.

Should Joe go? As hard as this is to write it probably is time because there will be no moving on for the school until he does step down. But there is no need to fire the man who has made Penn State his life for 61 years, his contract is up at the end of this season. Just don't renew it.

As my dad reminded me yesterday the last time the the voices calling for Paterno's ouster were this loud in the valley I was a freshmen and Paterno was in the middle of his worst season ever. One of the men these people would have replaced him with?

Jerry Sandusky.

evening update - This statement was released by Joe Paterno today:

"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."

On November 4th Sandusky was arrested for 40 counts related to allegations of sexual abuse of young boys over a 15 year period. Sandusky is currently free on $100,000 bail pending trial and could face life in prison if convicted.

Saturday #12 Penn State faces #19 Nebraska in what is in all probability Joe Paterno's final home game as head coach of the Nittany Lions. It is also senior day which is a tear jerker in the best of times. I haven't made up my mind if I'll be making my planed trip to the game but I can't see myself not. If it is JoePa's last game in Happy Valley I'm going to have to be there.

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