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Joe Pa's Legacy: Sex or Football

Updated on January 27, 2012

If you pay attention to the sports world, you are more than likely aware of the passing of Joe Paterno a few days ago. Paterno, better known as Joe Pa, is a name that rings loudly throughout the college football halls. The man is not only a legend in Pennsylvania but also throughout the entire National Collegiate Athletic Association. Paterno has the most wins of any Division I (FBS) football coach in history. He spent 61 years working for Penn State, 46 of which were as head coach. He won two national championships and won numerous other prominent games. In 2007, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, while still actively serving as a coach.

State College, Pennsylvania seemed to revolve around Joe Pa. Happy Valley was his little kingdom to rule over. Penn State was Joe Pa’s home, and everyone seemed to love him. He had a following on campus and was truly a legend. Even though he was in his mid-80s, he had the passion and energy of a younger person. His words and animated speeches would fire-up droves of students at pep rallies, even though half of those words could not be understood through his heavy accent. He was such an incredibly recognizable figure on campus from his big nose to his thick, dark glasses.

However, it’s hard to say if all of the positive accolades mentioned previously will be what Joe Pa is remembered by. Sadly, his football career became heavily tainted in November. It wasn’t that he had a perfectly clean record beforehand, but in November something happened that could possibly overshadow his entire time at Penn State. Paterno’s longtime assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, was arrested on claims of a child sexual abuse scandal that had allegedly been going on at Penn State for many years. As far back as 2002, Paterno was made aware of Sandusky’s actions with the boys. Joe Pa supposedly reported it to the university officials who should have taken care of everything. Almost ten years later, the arrest of Sandusky also ended up getting Paterno fired.

Even though Joe Pa was not facing any legal problems or involved with the scandal, his association with Sandusky caused him to lose his job. Because he only turned Sandusky in to the university and not the police nearly ten years prior, he had to go as well. Paterno was considered to be at fault and could not be kept around because he knew of Sandusky’s actions and still kept him around the program. While I in no way condone the actions of Sandusky and they entirely sicken me, I fail to see how Paterno was at fault. If Joe Pa reported the actions, it was up to Penn State to follow through and deal with Sandusky. Paterno did his part. I realize all of the facts are not known, so it’s hard to really say who all could be at fault. The worst thing is that this sexual abuse went on at all.

While there is clearly nothing that can trump the horridness of the sexual abuse, it is still sad to see Paterno’s legacy come down to this scandal. His more than six decades of work at Penn State could all be remembered by the disgusting actions of one of his staffers. I have no affiliation to Penn State University or Joe Paterno, but I would hate to see all his positives be forgotten because of the scandal. Obviously, we won’t know all of the facts until a thorough investigation and trial of Sandusky, but I hope Joe Pa’s name will be cleared and not drug through the dirt anymore.


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    • Joelipoo profile image

      Joel 6 years ago from Ohio

      @Cre8tor - This whole story sickens me because of the disgusting nature of the crimes committed. I agree that we shouldn't forget this. The scandal will forever be part of his legacy just hopefully not the defining part.

    • Cre8tor profile image

      Dan Robbins 6 years ago from Ohio

      I too hope his legacy isn't defined by this scandal but surely hope it's not forgotten either. I wasn't there...but people should know what is to go to the boss and what is to go to the police. It's sad it had to end this way but we are intelligent people and should know (I'll be kind) a mistake in judgment like this could tear down all that we've built. RIP Joe Pa and I'll not forget the good you did.