Thoughts On The Penn State Scandal
Penn State Nittany Lions Football, 1887-2011?
As I write this, my overwhelming feeling is that I'm extremely glad that I am not an alumnus of Penn State University.
Especially after what has happened at that school in central Pennsylvania over the past few days.
It's still difficult for me, as a sports fan and a college football fan, to fathom the heinous acts over there, the fact that Joe Paterno, who (along with Paul "Bear" Bryant at Alabama) is to intercollegiate football what John Wooden is to intercollegiate basketball, was fired after 46 years as the coach of Penn State's Nittany Lions, where all he did was to win more games - 409 - and more bowl games - 24 - than any other coach in the history of Division One NCAA football.
Not to mention his five undefeated seasons and two national championships.
All over his longtime trusted assistant and right hand man, Jerry Sandusky, allegedly being a predator who couldn't control his sexual attraction to young boys, including allegedly having sex with them in the football team's showers for a period of over a decade up until 2002.
Talk about sick!
The thing was, Paterno was far from the only one who went down, as Penn State president Graham Spanier was fired on November 9th - which will be regarded in the Penn State community with infamy much like December 7th or September 11th - along with Paterno for essentially covering the whole mess up.
That Paterno, who went to the athletic director, Tim Curley, upon hearing that Sandusky was having sex with a young boy in the shower but didn't follow up like he should have, was evidence that the athletic powers that be, fearing that it would cause a total scandal with the football team (which it would have), hushed it up and merely took Sandusky's locker room keys away and ordered him to not take young boys into the locker room again.
Which was the ultimate slap in the wrist if you ask me.
It all goes to show, obviously speaking, that no matter how successful or huge you may get in your profession - and Paterno was as successful and huge as one could get in his - no one, and I mean no one, is indispensable or untouchable.
In other words, everyone is replaceable. Even a guy who won more football games than any other coach save John Gagliardi, who coaches at Division III St. John's (Minn.)
Let me make myself clear - firing Paterno was something that had to be done.
Sexual molestation is a heinous thing that can't ever be tolerated, and though it was probably unintentional, Paterno, as well as Spanier and Curley, became part of the problem when he didn't go to the police.
But I can't help feeling extremely sad that a great and legendary career had to end like this.
If I were on the Penn State Board of Trustees, I would insist that the board quietly give Paterno the biggest and most generous severance / retirement package any employee ever had, where he could live the rest of his life - what is left of it as he is 84 years old - in relative luxury.
After all, considering that Paterno has not been charged of any crime and did follow official procedure with Sandusky's depravity, it's the least that the board could do, or else 46 years of Nittany Lions excellence on the girdiron would have meant nothing.
If nothing else, it would be a big "Thank You" for everything that coach did for the school because to be honest, if it wasn't for football, would anyone outside of that region have heard of Penn State?
It must be faced: Joe Paterno put Penn State on the map, and that is reality.
Along with everything else, I feel extremely sad for Penn State as a whole, because things will not be the same in Happy Valley - which is certainly no longer happy - for a long time as this will likely mark the end of that Nittany Lion football program as we know it.
Nearly everything Paternoish will likely be swept away as the house will go through a complete cleansing; new coach, new staff, new policies.
Plus I'd be surprised if at least some of the current players on that football team didn't leave, transfer to another school to try and escape the stain.
And a big, fat "Good Luck!" to the new coach and staff in trying to get top recruits.
I can hear parents now: "You mean that school where that coach was messing around with and screwing little boys? You want me to send my son there?! Yeah, right!"
Don't get me wrong - Penn State will NOT drop football or even suspend it like SMU did in 1987 as part of their "Death Penalty".
But I dare say that it will not be the same again, and it may well go into non-relevance before long. However...
If that's the price to pay for a university to get it's integrity back after such a unforgivable thing like child molestation and covering up for such, then that is what must be done.
It still doesn't make it less sad, though. It's sort of a feeling of sorrow and mourning that I have for those Penn State students and alums right now.
That is how I see it.
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