Is the End Near for Joe Paterno?

by John Furgele

Until recently, most college football fans did not know who Jerry Sandusky was, and if the world was right, most still wouldn’t.  But, that all changed when the longtime Penn State assistant football coach was arrested and charged with numerous sexual assaults with young boys over a 15 year period.  Sandusky was known as a defensive guru, helping the Nittany Lions win two national championships in the 1980s.  In 1982, they effectively contained Hershel Walker and the Georgia Bulldogs, and in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl, still the most watched college football game of all-time, Sandusky’s scheme induced Heisman Trophy winning QB Vinny Testaverde into throwing five interceptions.

As a football coach, Sandusky knew his stuff, but as a human, well, that remains in deep down.  It appears that the coach used his power to take adavantage of young boys.  When one is charged with deviant sexual misconduct, it makes everybody wince.  Many saw Sandusky as the eventual heir apparent to Joe Paterno, the now 84 year old coach at the school.  But, in 1999, Sandusky abruptly retired to devote more time to his Second Mile, a program that aided troubled boys. 

It seems fairly apparent that Sandusky was using the Second Mile to find young boys who he then could take advantage of and have sex with.  In 2002, a then grad assistant testified that he saw a young boy, about 10 or 11 with his hands pressed against a shower wall while Sandusky was having anal sex with him.  This was three years AFTER Sandusky retired, but because of his status, he was allowed to use the facilities and often brought boys from the program to the school. 

After the alleged incident, the grad assistant told Paterno, who then reported it his athletic director Tim Curley, but that’s where it seemed to end.  The police were never called and the only action the university took was to bar Sandusky from using the lockerroom in the future. 

For most coaching icons, it usually doesn’t end well.  Bobby Bowden was forced out and deep down, he didn;t want to go.  He knew it was probably time, but in his heart, he felt he could make one more run at a national championship.  But, Bowden retired because the football team’s perfromance was on the decline, not because of a sexual scandal. 

Last year, several members of the Ohio State football team, including star QB Terrel Pryor were suspended for giving memorablia in exchange for tatoos and other comepensation.  It was reported to coach Jim Tressel, who covered it up.  The result:  Tressel resigned over the summer.  So, the question is simple.  If Tressel was forced out over trading memorabilia for tatoos, how does Joe Paterno survive this cover up?

We have heard that Paterno is not under investigation, and we have heard that Paterno did the right thing by alerting his superior, athletic director Tim Curley.  But, Paterno should have done more.  Why didn’t he call the police?  Why didn’t he confront Sandusky?  Why didn’t he follow up and get on Curley for not taking serious action?  Simply reporting the incident may fulfill all legal obligations, but what about a person’s moral compass?  This is Joe Paterno, perhaps the most popular Pennsylvanian today.  For him to stop merely at just reporting a sick incident to his AD, to me, indicates that he was covering things up.  We keep hearing that were always “whispers about coach Sandusky,” but when it came time to deal with a very serious incident, nothing was done.

Paterno is a college coaching icon, and at 84, he has always been too stubborn to retire.  The administration was always in a dilemma.  Most of his supporters wish he would step down, simply because at his age, it’s time to retire, but no one wants to be the one who forced Paterno out.  It happened at Florida State, but eventually those who wanted Bowden out got him out.  It’s tougher to do that at Penn State.  It’s a more homogenous state, and most who live in Pennsylvania, are from Pennsylvania.  They grew up with Paterno prowling the sidelines and they are loyal to him and the program.  There is less passion in Florida, with many more transients and of course, Florida and Miami also playing football in the Sunshine State. 

For those who want Paterno out, they have the scenario.  He has to retire now, and in this case even his most ardent supporters will give in and accept that the time has come.  It’s a sad ending that hopefully, time can help heal.  You can’t blame Paterno for something that Sandusky allegedly did, that’s not fair, but the fact that nothing was done, well, there is some blood on his hands. 

Paterno has done wonderful things for the university and even today, is adored by the undergrads that attend the big school in State College.  That shouldn’t change, but there most be changes at the top of the football program, and it is time for Coach Paterno to step aside and leave the program, the regime to somebody new.  That will be hard to do,because Paterno has been there since 1966, head coach since 1969. 

it’s tough to go out the right way, in fact, is there a right way?  Most times, something drives a person out.  For some, it’s age, for others, effectiveness, and others it may be illness.  Joe Paterno is no exception to this.  Like everybody else, his time has come.  You just wish it woudl have been he who dictated the terms.

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