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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Joe Paterno: Complacency Kills Another Legend's Reputation

I am a firm believer that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. That is why I have a hard time with organized religion, young cops, bureaucracies and any institution that allows people to hold onto power for long periods of time. And if corruption doesn't bring down the entrenched, complacency surely will.

I am a football fan, and as a by-product I am a Joe Paterno fan. Paterno is in his 62nd year on the coaching staff at Penn State and his 44th year as head coach. Critics have charged for years that at 84, football has passed JoePa by, yet he continues to recruit at a high level and his program continues (for the most part) to win. He has also been seemingly devoid of scandal for the length of his tenure.

Now word has leaked that in 2002, receivers coach and graduate assistant Mike McQueary allegedly witnessed former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky sexually assaulting a young boy in the locker room shower of a Penn State facility. Sandusky had retired from the football program in 1999, but was still a fixture on campus. McQueary contacted Paterno who then contacted Athletic Director Tim Curley and university vice president Gary Schultz. The police were never contacted. Both Curley and Schultz stepped down from their positions this week, and both face prison time for lying to a grand jury about Sandusky's alleged involvement with under-aged boys
McQueary played for Penn State in the late 90s. After working during 2002 as a graduate assistant, he was promoted to administrative assistant. He is now Penn State's wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator.

Sandusky was apparently able to access Penn State's facilities at his pleasure as recently as two weeks ago. There is no reason to believe that Sandusky's repugnant and criminal behavior suddenly ceased after the 2002 incident.

For Sandusky, Paterno and Penn State, more is yet to come. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times today:
The mother of Victim Six said she confronted Sandusky after her son, then 11, told her he took a shower with Sandusky after a tour of the Penn State football locker room in 1998.

"Jerry Sandusky admitted to my face, he admitted it," the mother said. "He admitted that he lathered up my son. They were naked and he bear-hugged him," she said.

The grand jury report said Sandusky apologized to the boy’s mother.

"I understand. I was wrong," the report quotes Sandusky as telling the boy’s mother. "I wish I could get forgiveness. I know I won’t get it from you. I wish I were dead."
-- David Zucchino in State College, Pa.

Joe Paterno needs to step down, sooner rather than later. He choose to act minimally in an effort to protect an associate rather than to protect vulnerable young boys who were being molested in his facilities. Age is not an excuse. Being a good guy is not an excuse.

JoePa may be a legend and an icon but the simple fact of the matter is he knew about Sandusky's activities. He also did not sever ties with Sandusky after learning of his criminal activity. Paterno's desire to keep the scandal in house is a moral failure. If you were morally outraged at the Catholic Church for protecting the reputation of the Church by moving admitted child molesters to distant parishes, yet you are willing to excuse JoePa because you like him or his success, you are a hypocrite

JoePa is guilty of helping cover up a scandal to protect his own legacy and the reputation of Penn State's football program. 

McQueary is no hero and also needs to step down. Sure he contacted Paterno, but he also apparently decided to forget what he saw after realizing nothing was going to be done about it.

Paterno may very well have assumed that he did the correct thing legally when he contacted his own superiors about Sandusky. But he not only is he the face of Penn State football, Joe Paterno is Penn State. Whether you like that statement or not, it's a fact. He is complicit in the cover-up and guilty of taking the morally bankrupt path by concluding his involvement was completed when he contacted his AD. Complacency and inaction in an effort to protect an institution while children were harmed in inexcusable.

After one's roots grow too deep, human nature insulates us from moral choice. Penn State's failure is society's failure, and frankly, I am tired of failing.

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