I have gotten a few emails and messages asking my thoughts on the Penn State scandal over the last few days. It doesn’t surprise me that I am being asked an opinion. I am an alumni. I have met Joe Paterno and spoken with him. I am a staunch advocate for the University. I love my school. I will admit that this is all a little painful. Not only the treatment of Paterno, which I think borders on ridiculous. But just the overall black eye that it being given to my beloved alma mater hurts. But I won’t back down here from writing about it. And I won’t stop loving PSU either…
UPDATE: As many of you may be aware, Between my writing this article early Wednesday night and the publishing that will happen in a few hours, the board of trustees announced that Joe Paterno has been fired, effective immediately, as head football coach at Penn State. In my opinion, this is a travesty. A sad PR move that punishes a scapegoat. Now someone needs to fire the board. Do you think they didn’t know? Now, back to my original article.
Let me first address Sandusky. I used to admire the man. He is, after all, the architect that built “Linebacker University.” Two national championships won primarily with defense, defense that he controlled and built. I remember seeing him on campus. Everyone knew who he was. He always seemed like a really nice guy. Tough but compassionate. But he is a monster. I would prefer that, if he is guilty, and I am assuming that he is at this point, that they hit him as hard as humanly possible for what he has done. Sharing a cell with a well endowed lifer who makes Sandusky his bitch is not nearly enough punishment for what he has done, but it will be a good start.
There is no defense for Sandusky. He is the lowest form of human being.
Then there is then graduate assistant Mike McQueary. I remember Mike as a Quarterback at Penn State. In the mid-90’s he was a damn good QB and set several records that still stand. He was a graduate student at the time, but is now a full time assistant, acting as the WR coach and recruiting coordinator. He was the one who allegedly observed Sandusky sodomizing a ten year old in the shower and went to Paterno.
I don’t understand his reaction. Had I witnessed what he did, I would have immediately run in and stopped what was happening. I would have pummeled Sandusky and removed the child from the situation. I then would have reported the issue. McQueary only did that last part. Why he didn’t go immediately to the AD, who also happens to be the head of Penn State’s nearly 300 strong police force, I don’t know. But I will give him the benefit of the doubt on who he reported it to as he did report it to the person he felt had the highest moral compass of anyone he knew, Joe Paterno. I cannot fathom why he didn’t run in and stop what was happening. Mike is not a small guy and certainly shouldn’t have been physically intimidated to face Sandusky. Even if he was, sheer concern for the kid should have overridden that.
Should he be fired? I haven’t made up my mind. He reported it as he should have. And he doesn’t have enough power at the university to go any further than that. But I think less of him for not stopping the behavior right then and there with a swift blow to the side of Sandusky’s head. But he did follow up some. He spoke to the people investigating the incident a month after reporting it and they told him it was being investigated and that Sandusky had been banned from the campus.
The university officials. If there was a cover up, here are the people to blame. The AD was also head of the university police force. As such, the incident should have been reported to the local police department and the state police as soon as it was verified. That two of them (Tim Curley and Gary Shultz) have been charged with lying to the Grand Jury is appropriate. If they didn’t do everything that they were supposed to do to stop this monster, they should be ashamed of themselves. I will wait for the details to come out before determining which ones I hold responsible. But it at least appears on the surface that this is where the cover up was and they should pay for that.
Then there is Paterno….
Here is where things get hard for me. I know this man. I know what kind of integrity he has. I know what kind of compassion he has. He reported it to the person who he was supposed to report it to. Everyone has been clear that he legally did the right thing. Further, the grand jury noted that Paterno was especially forthright, honest, and as helpful as possible with the investigation. In short, when it comes to him doing the right thing, there is little question that he did so.
The knock on Paterno is that he didn’t do enough. There is a mythical sense out there that Joe was all powerful at Penn State and he could do whatever he wanted to do, that he controlled whether this was followed through on or not. That is the focus of the media witch hunt on Paterno. And I tell you that all those who believe that don’t know a thing about Joe Paterno. Was he powerful at the university? Sure. If you asked him if he was powerful at the university would he think so? No, he wouldn’t. He would have never assumed to get in the way of an ongoing investigation the way that people claim he should have done. That just isn’t who Joe Paterno is….
Joe Paterno has for 46 years ran the cleanest football program in the country. He doesn’t cheat. He doesn’t lie. He doesn’t take shortcuts. He would rather lose the right way than win the wrong way. How many people in your life do you know whom you can truly say that about? He was the epitome of everything that is right in college athletics. his integrity is beyond reproach. These aren’t the ravings of a Paterno “Fan Boy”. These are the observations of someone who gained a small insight into who he was.
For members of the scandal loving media, who cherish the idea of tearing down an icon, this is gold. There is nothing more that people such as Jamele Hill at ESPN cherish more than the opportunity to tarnish the image of someone who is simply better than them. The idea of bringing him down to their level is too much of an opportunity to miss. So it has become a “pile on Paterno” circus, with everyone making all sorts of judgements with very little in the way of facts to go on. They are screaming for his head without knowing anything about who he is, let alone what he did or didn’t do surrounding this situation. But for anyone to claim that he in any way intended to help cover up, or sweep under the rug, this situation to protect the university or his football program, is ridiculous. Anyone who makes that claim doesn’t know the first thing about Joe Paterno.
Like any other HR issue, the details become confidential. If you reported something like this at your workplace and then went back to HR a month later and asked for an update, you would get the standard answer” “We are investigating the allegations and our investigation is confidential.” It would not matter that you were the one who reported it. Joe’s situation is no different. We don’t know how much he followed up on the incident he reported. All we have heard is that he himself admits that he wishes he had done more. You know, that same statement anyone close to a situation makes when things go horribly wrong. The people around Amy Winehouse all wish they had done more. Same for Michael Jackson. Same for every situation. Wishing you had done more in hindsight is not an admission that you didn’t do enough.
So it saddens me that he has announced that he will retire at the end of the year. I don’t see it as him trying to dictate to the board of trustees what will happen. I see it as the sad decision that a man who is heartbroken by the events that have taken place was forced to make. I have no doubt he is heartbroken by what happened. And I have no doubt that he made this choice because of that. It wasn’t done to mollify the press or anyone else. It wasn’t done to attempt to dictate the terms of his departure at Penn State. It was done because he is heartbroken and at 84 years old, he simply wants to let Penn State work on getting past the damage done to the university.
It saddens me but I knew it had to happen. The fact that there are those who are calling for him to be fired now, with only a few remaining games, is ridiculous. Claims that he should not be allowed to watch his seniors play their final home game this weekend. Claims that he should not be allowed to ever coach another down. All utterly ridiculous. How quickly people forget who this man is and what he has done not only for college athletics, but for thousands of student athletes who he took under his wing and turned into men. How quickly they forget all that he has done to serve his community, the university, and anyone else he could help in any way.
And how little credit they give him for not even hesitating to report an incident that he knew would ruin a man that he loved as one of his family. Sandusky was a coach under Paterno for three decades. Their bond was strong. Yet Paterno did not hesitate to report the incident, less than 12 hours after he was informed himself, calling the AD the next morning.
At this point, leave Joe Paterno alone. He is a great man, with a great heart, and more integrity than almost anyone that I know. He has done great things, and he deserves to finish out the season and then retire. If he isn’t allowed to do that, I will be extremely disappointed.
And on top of that, if the university doesn’t have the balls to stand behind this man, who did nothing wrong, I will wager that the alumni donations to the university will drop by 50% next year. I know that I won’t give them another dime.
Say a prayer for the children in this story. They are the real victims. My defending Paterno in no way implies that I don’t care about them.
I am Penn State. That won’t change.