It happened so long ago that I was still in high-school. Michael Jackson was the “King” of pop for real, parachute pants were the “in” thing, and Dan Marino strutted “Zuba’s”. It was the 1980′s. In college ranks, Penn State’s Joe Paterno was still old and frankly everyone thought he would retire as his 70′s approached. Time, decades, wars, and economic downturn could oust Paterno from his coaching gig in Happy Valley. Now all these years later, a man who no longer roams the sidelines with Joe”Pa” as he is referred to will likely bring an end to the longest sports tenure in the world. Yes, in weeks if not days, Joe Paterno may step down as coach of the Nittany Lions. Thanks Jerry Sandusky and the two stooges who additionally have been arrested for doing nothing.
Yesterday a ninth male stepped forward to announce that he too was sexually abused by then coordinator Jerry Sandusky who was supposed to be the heir apparent to the Nittany coaching hierarchy. Instead, Paterno outlasted him by another 15 years or so. Now that decade is coming back to take big bite of the Lions pride. The alleagations against Sandusky will likely put him behind bars for a long time. Along with Penn States’ former athletic director Tim Curley and former senior vice president Gary Schultz.
The roles of Curley and Schultz were not of the abusing kind, they were of the cover up kind. Apparently there are reports that Joe Paterno learned of the allegations and informed Curley and Schultz who in turn did nothing to act. Some believe, opinions that is, that Paterno did what he was legally bound to do, he notified State’s athletic officials. Other contend that in light of nothing being done, Paterno should have gone to the police with the information. Regardless the questions of the incident and Paterno’s involvement are being scrutinized and the stress of the allegations appears to be taking a major toll on the 82 year old head coach.
ESPN and other outlets are speculating that Paterno will resign. Faced with the prospect of his entire career being black marked by someone who held in high regard and close friendship. Perhaps he too is guilty if only by association. I find it difficult to believe that Paterno hid anything from anyone but I only question his decision not to follow up with information he passed along to his bosses.
Paterno has been a head coach for a very long time. 45 years to be exact. He took over the head job in Happy Valley way back in 1966. While he has over 400 career victories at the college level he is no stranger to controversy. He was cited for road rage in 2007 and in 2006 was accused of making light of sexual assault by the National Organization for Women. But the 40 counts levied against Sandusky could ultimately be his undoing.
The question many are asking now is whether or not the legal lengths that Paterno went through absolve him of the moral lengths he did not. It’s a fair question and rumors out of the University today is that the board of trustees are backing off their support for Paterno in the wake of this scandal. Whether or not Joe Paterno’s career will end as a result of this issue remains to be seen just how influential this scandal will have on his reputation. In no small part I suppose that it depends on your interpretation of the events as to whether Paterno was as responsible as Tim Curley and Gary Schultz for not going to the police immediately.
One thing is for certain, a legend in all sports is likely cradling the last days or weeks of his profession, right or wrong as you opinionate’, and he simply deserves to go out with more dignity than this.