What a horrible ending for a storied career. Joe Paterno has been head coach at Penn State for an amazing 46 years, and his 409 wins is the most for any major college coach. He’s been a true icon at Penn State, a man whose impact has been felt beyond the football field. There’s little doubt that Joe Pa is the most beloved man in Pennsylvania, and a symbol of what has been a very clean program, free of the controversy that has hit many major college football programs.
And it all comes crashing down in what was likely Joe Pa’s last year. What a shame. What a waste. But more than anything…what an incredible lapse in judgement by Paterno. In the blink of an eye, his entire career and reputation at Penn State are ruined. When he was told by a graduate assistant that Paterno’s friend and former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was seen sexually assaulting a young boy in the showers at Penn State, Paterno did pass the information along to Penn State administrators. Those administrators are now being indicted for failing to report the incident to the police, a shocking cover-up that likely led to Sandusky continuing to have access to yet more boys, a cover-up that likely led to more young lives ruined by this monster.
Joe Pa did what he was legally obligated to, when he reported the incident. However, given the god-awful nature of the crime, you would think Paterno would want to follow up with the administration on the status of the (supposed) investigation. He had an obligation, not just as the face of Penn State football, but as a human being, to follow up. It’s hard to believe Paterno would report the event, and then simply forget about it. It’s hard to understand why Paterno wouldn’t question Sandusky still maintaining a presence around the program. It’s hard to understand why Paterno wouldn’t question administration officials when it became apparent the crime never went reported.
The story is simply shocking. Joe Paterno, and indeed, Penn State football, are just about the least likely of culprits for such a scandal. A man, his legend, and his program are teetering on the brink. And there’s simply no excuse that can be made on Paterno’s behalf.