Joe Paterno Retiring After The Season–Update: Paterno Dismissed.

Paterno Couldn't Escape the Scandal at PSU.

Earlier this year I wrote that Joe Paterno needed to go as head coach at Penn State.  This certainly isn’t the ending I envisioned.  I’ve purposely not commented on the Jerry Sandusky scandal, because I didn’t think it was necessary for me to be one more person calling this a sad, regrettable and tragic situation.  I didn’t know all of the facts, and frankly I don’t want to know them all, and so I can’t speak as a Penn State insider, or as someone with even an educated opinion.  I’d just be another person on the fringe with their two-cents.   But, I guess as it looks like we’re moving toward some definitive conclusions here, it’s time to offer a thought or two, or at least have a place where people can discuss.

It was interesting to me that the debate evolved in some ways into a battle over whether Joe Paterno should keep his job. As with many things Penn State, I suppose, it was possible to boil this down to a football decision.  Should the coach stay or go? Maybe this is a more comfortable question to discuss than the larger issues?

I’ll say that getting rid of Paterno will accomplish nothing other than finally ending his long tenure.  It’s not going to create any goodwill among those calling for his head, it’s not to going to offer any real relief to the victims or their families, it’s just an old guy losing his job, really.  Losing his chance to go out on his own terms–something that seemed to be very valuable to him.   And, for that, I do feel slightly bad for Paterno.

For me, the biggest part of this case is that it is another indictment against college athletics.  I hope that there isn’t a Jerry Sandusky scandal at every major university out there, but this gives you an idea of how it probably would have been handled at most places.  The culture at these Universities that are major athletic players is something that needs to change.  We see that from tiny scandals over players getting tattoos to a giant and horrific mess like the one that has engulfed Penn State.  The common thread is that the first impulse is to cover it all up.  The first thought is, how can we get away with this?  How can we get past this without any harm to the football program?

That would be the most embarrassing aspect for me if I was associated with one of these schools.  How do you explain to someone that all this occurred because they were trying to shield the football program from any scandal?  Not only that, but how sad is it that we’ve gotten to a point where I can say I honestly understand why Mike McQueary didn’t do more. You think a grad assistant wants to get labeled as a snitch?  As a whistle-blower?  Sure, you can try to separate this horrible crime from something minor like a recruiting scandal, but the bottom line is, you would have had a young coach who was known as someone who ratted out the old coach.  Yeah, he did the right thing, but does he always do the right thing?  If we hire him here is he going to turn us in for throwing a little money around, fudging some academic records, what’s his threshold?

So, McQueary passes it up the line, and then Paterno does too.  JoePa probably had the standing to do something about it. He could survive, because he’d never need anyone else to hire him, but he chose to pass it up the line as well. And, from there, the decision was made to try to keep the program clean.  And from the very first moment Penn State made the choice to try to cover this up, from the very first allegation, they made their bed.  Any future allegation would have to get the same treatment, otherwise the original cover-up is exposed.  Now, it’s been exposed anyway and years of negligence have been piled on top.

Am I saying this was more likely to happen, in this manner, at a big-time division one sports school?  I guess I am.  It’s certainly not a situation unique to that environment, but how they do business and where they place their priority creates an environment, doesn’t it?

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13 thoughts on “Joe Paterno Retiring After The Season–Update: Paterno Dismissed.

  1. These are Eli-Te’s and DC’s comments from the other thread:

    ELI-TE:

    Are we really not going to comment/discuss this whole PSU thing? I mean, I know I’ve seen PSU fans on here and just nothing. As an “outsider” i don’t see how any alumni could be anything less than appalled at JoePa finishing up this season. If I were a booster, my last dollar has been sent to the school and I’m looking for a new place to support.

    DC:

    I would place Paterno on immediate administrative leave. I do not think he did what was morally the right thing to do in 2002. I do not think he acted morally in allowing Sandusky continued access (with children!) to university facilities following the 2002 incident. I also suspect that he knew quite well the reasons behind Sandusky’s 1999 departure from the coaching staff–and that those reasons had to do with allegations of the very nature we are now seeing–and yet at the very least acquiesced in keeping the allegations quiet for the benefit of the university’s reputation. It pains me to say all of these things but I think that allowing Paterno to finish the season out of respect for his stature at the university, or for any other reason, is to perpetuate exactly the kind of thinking that led to where we are today. I am trying to be cautious about overreacting and jumping to conclusions but I think the fundamental issue here is that things should have stopped pending further investigation when they first came to light rather than to continue as if everything was normal, and I think that same dynamic is playing out right now.

  2. As a somewhat related aside, I went to Franklin and Marshall. The year before I arrived the head swimming coach was accused of taping girls as young as 13 in the locker room. A student found the recording device, the coach, John Trites was questioned and denied any knowledge. Before the investigation progressed, Trites fled and has remained a fugitive for the last 14 years. Obviously his actions are an admission of guilt. I wonder how something like this would have been handled at F&M (a small lib-arts school) had Trites stuck around to face the charges. Perhaps his decision to flee in indicative of the knowledge that he had no chance to survive the scandal.

  3. I am a PSU fan and alumni. There was a failure at all levels of the university, and certainly it seems Paterno is as faulty as the next. Sure, legally, he did what was required, but where was his moral compass? It was pointed right at his legacy and record books. I am saddened that this is how Paterno will go out, with this huge black mark on his legacy and reputation.

    I do not like that this has become a football issue, this has nothing to do with football. It has to do with children, their welfare and being morally responsible. Let’s face it, Paterno is a known entity. It is/was much easier for the media to make him the face of this scandal. With that said, he had complete control over the football program (and in many ways the athletic department), he should definitely be held accountable for what occurred under his reign.

    As a student of the university, I am embarrassed that my school did the exact opposite of what is stressed at institutions of higher learning, to always be your best and do right. Hell, one of my favorite quotes is from Paterno, “Believe deep down in your heart that you’re destined to great things.” He and the university didn’t live up to this. They failed to be the example for students past, present and future.

    I am disappointed in my school’s priorities. I am disappointed in their actions. I have hope that justice and something positive will prevail. I firmly believe that anyone associated with the events and their cover-ups should be held accountable.

    Penn State is bigger than the football program, and bigger than the administrators. It is about the students, past, present and future. I am proud that so many of the alumni have stood together and said that what occurred isn’t OUR Penn State.

  4. interesting post, well done. and in true 3-Putt style, nothing hasty. as i said at lunch, with several colleagues who are alumns, and all of us essentially social workers – it would have been sad to say, “get rid of mickey mouse, disney has some issues.” that is simplistic, for sure, but captures the big picture to me…legally, as ween said – things were handled by Paterno. Morals are inherently complicated when we face them personally, and with true nuance. what hurts most, is that this issue continues to be seen as something individuals are responsible for, when the university as a representative of larger systems, do not have satisfactory chain of command nor systemic acknowledgement that sex abuse does not discriminate across age, race, marital status nor line or work. penn state blazes with that mistaken lack of acknolwedgement, from ill policy – perhaps – to lack of follow through of which should be basic CORI investigations for anyone working with youth at a university or affiliated with an institution, especially, one with state dollars. i also hear coworkers upset that Ridge may step in as Pres…he is a policy-risk management guy. makes sense for government, but for an esteemed insititution of academia? for now, i guess. finally, i agree with ween, this does not have to do with football, unless, however – as others surmise and 3-Putt alludes to, this abuse scandal is only a tip of the iceberg/ covering up something maybe bargained w/ re: Sandusky’s history of consequence.

    Q

  5. I think it has to do with football in the sense that I don’t think it plays out this way if Sandusky is a History professor.

    Penn State is not defined only by football, but to try to completely disassociate with it, I don’t think makes sense, either. It’s a great source of pride and revenue for the school and I think some of the actions taken were done so to protect that pride and revenue stream.

    I feel badly for current students and alums, because I’m sure they are embarrassed/disappointed/hurt, I would be. But, there’s really no reason to be embarrassed. It could have happened at any school. And, the fact that it is Penn State is going to heighten everything a bit, because PSU has plenty of haters, plenty of people who want to jump in and throw the school’s and football program’s reputation right back in its face.

    • You are right in that it’s a football issue because football is such a huge source of revenue and pride for the university. It’s funny, how doing what you think is easiest/best in the short-term doesn’t always play out that way in the long run. In hindsight, how much better would the school and program be if they claimed responsibility for the incident in ’98, fired Sandusky, etc etc, and moved on? At the time, that was probably a tough position for the school to be in, to claim the responsibility especially because, if you remember, Penn State was still considered a powerhouse team in ’98 and ’99. I believe they entered the ’98 season ranked 4th, and had high expectations in ’99 as well. You had Lavar Arrington as the anchor of a highly touted and respected D during those years. Admitting wrongdoing in the program at the time seemed too devastating to accept. Fast forward to today, and look where that got the school. That is, rightly, a big reason that the calls for resignations of Paterno and Spanier have been so loud. Something could have and should have been done at that time.

  6. wowoowowowow….hey, 3-putt, it’s Wednesday, no? where’s the mail bag? i thought of this when i wanted to update that I am officially taking my mixed religion self on over to play “James Taylor Holiday Classics” station on Pandora. it’s time. so the mail bag question: how soon is too soon? and how will i feel by christmakwanzakkah? Q

    • Sorry, too late for this week. Maybe next. November 9th seems pretty aggro, but when James Taylor calls, I suppose he calls.

  7. this is really sad. I get the point about McQueary not wanting to be a snitch, but what they chose to do is unforgiveable. There is a difference between “blowing the whistle” on possible recruiting violations (paying players $$) or maybe violating NCAA rules on practice time (Rich Rod @ Michigan) and this scandal. What McQueary witnessed was a crime against a child- he has the obligation as a man to stand up and do what’s right, and Paterno has the obligation to do what’s right. I don’t know how they could have lived for 9 years with the knowledge of what happened, and still see Sandusky on the campus, or be involved with his charity, 2nd mile.
    I don’t think it is an indictment of a football program, it is an indictment of who they are as people, which in my book is much worse. I don’t care if Cam Newton received $250k for going to Auburn. I care a hell of a lot more if an asst coach & a head coach knew about an instance of a guy who was aassociated with their program sexually violated a young child.

  8. I don’t know if anyone here read the Clair Bee books when they were younger. I have a hard time imagining that Chip Hilton wouldn’t have intervened to stop a sexual assault against a child if he saw one being committed, or that Henry Rockwell would have responded to the report by saying, essentially, take it to the AD, in the meantime, everyone’s A-OK in my book.

    • I read all of the Chip Hilton books. I still think of the life lessons from them today. I was also thinking of the similarities between Paterno and Clair Bee. Bee was the basketball coach at Long Island University. In 1951, some of his players were found to be shaving points in games. He resigned over the situation and it tainted his coaching legacy. He wrote the Chip Hilton book series partly to made amends.

  9. Obviously, this scandal blows anything we’ve seen to this point out of the water. I tried to make it clear that I wasn’t comparing what happened to a typical violation, just trying to make the point that a whistle-blower is probably going to be treated in a similar fashion regardless of what he’s reporting.

    I honestly think if McQueary reports the incident, he’s eventually shuffled away from the program (at that point no one would have even noticed, he was a grad assistant) and he probably would have had a little bit harder time finding another job. That’s the indictment of football in my mind.

    and, it’s the culture of the NCAA program that is shaping these individuals who failed the victims to a certain extent. I don’t think JoePa is so morally devoid that this would be his stock response to child abuse if it occurred outside the football program.

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