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by Joe Santoro

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November 10, 2011
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Sports Fodder: Penn State situation CFB's darkest hour


Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .

The crucial issue surrounding the Penn State sex scandal cover-up is not whether or not Joe Paterno should have done more than he did to expose former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky's sickness. Of course he should have done more. Paterno even admits that. The most important issue is not whether or not Paterno should have been fired this week and not allowed to coach another game. It was imperative for Penn State to finally show the world that their football program is bigger than Joe Paterno. The most important issue is also not about all of the moral and legal misdeeds. The legal system will sort all of that ugliness out in the coming months. The truly important issue that every university in this country needs to address and look in the mirror and ask itself is this: How can we prevent a sports program and one man from becoming too powerful, too authoritative, too omnipotent, almighty and God-like so as not to allow this to happen to us?

. . .

This is arguably college sports' darkest hour. What Paterno, the Penn State football program and the school's administration did and, more importantly, did not do has tarnished all of college sports forever. It has tarnished all coaches everywhere. It has exposed the dark side of when a sports program and one man runs an entire university as well as an entire college town. Penn State, after all, is located in State College, Pa. If there was no university it would be a rest stop, a couple cows and a goat and a barn by the side of the highway. This will never go away. The days of idolizing a coach like he is some sort of living, breathing saint are over. Paterno was the Mount Rushmore of college coaches. He was the entire mountain. Paterno was the ultimate example to every coach of a guy who did everything the right way. His portrait was on the wall of every coach's mind and conscience with candles flickering beneath it. If Paterno can go bad, any coach can go bad.

. . .

Paterno, it seems, was just doing what most every coach does nearly every single day. He was protecting one of his fellow coaches and he was protecting his football program and university. Coaches stick up for other coaches. It's what they do. Everyone, after all (namely the media, fans, boosters, university presidents and athletic presidents), are out to get them so coaches circle the wagons and protect each other. The incident at Penn State is the ultimate example of when that philosophy is taken to the extreme. In the end, Paterno wasn't protecting his university or his football program or even his own legacy. He was allowing the opportunity to destroy it to remain alive.

. . .

It is easy to speculate about what Paterno knew, when he knew it, what he did and didn't do. Did he tell his university president and athletic director not to go to the police about Sandusky? Did he tell then graduate assistant coach Mike McQueary, who witnessed Sandusky committing a horrific crime in a university shower, to keep quiet? Did he have an agreement with the local police force to keep this mess out of the legal system and public eye? It is difficult to believe that in a small town like State College, Pa., (it should be called JoePa, Pa.) that Sandusky's disgusting behavior wasn't common knowledge of those in power (university president, athletic director, head football coach, police chief, university trustees, Paterno's priest, to name but a few).

. . .

It is also difficult to believe that Paterno and Sandusky never talked about this issue. The two were together for three decades as coaches. They are lifelong friends. They probably talked to each other a half-dozen times a week even after Sandusky "retired" as a Penn State assistant in 1999. They didn't talk about this? Really? But all of this will come out in the courts. This is not over. Unfortunately for Penn State and all college sports programs everywhere, this is just beginning.

. . .

Why would anyone want to become the next head football coach at Penn State? Why would any family send its son to that university to play football? Why would any young man want to be a part of that program? If Penn State looks the other way when a coach is sexually abusing young men, what other things do they ignore? Penn State football might never recover. A coach always wants to leave a program in better shape than when he found it. Well, Paterno is leaving Penn State football in turmoil.

. . .

There is no way Penn State should allow Mike McQueary, who remains as an assistant coach, to be a part of its football program moving forward. McQueary probably just did -- and did not do -- exactly what Paterno and his athletic director told him to do and not do. No doubt. If he would have gone to the police himself Paterno probably would have fired him and prevented him from getting another coaching job the rest of his life. But Penn State needs to immediately separate itself from all of the major players in this tragedy. Having McQueary at the stadium on game day or even on the practice field from this day forward does not do the university any good.

. . .

Penn State fans have also acted like fools during all of this. They ran around the town destroying property and even overturned a media news van. Most every news video shows them running around the streets with stupid grins on their faces just thrilled to be on camera, like they were celebrating a Nittany Lion win on the field after storming out of the stands. They also showed up on Paterno's lawn and cheered him like he just won a national title. Paterno then went out on his lawn, thanked the fans for showing up and treated the gathering like a pep rally, even ending it by shouting 'Beat Nebraska!' Everyone who has a conscience and even a shred of moral integrity should have felt sick to their stomach after seeing that display of stupidity by the fans and Paterno. That would not happen on the lawn of a NFL head coach. Paterno should have walked out of his house with a somber face and told all of those so-called supporters to go home and get off his lawn like any other 84-year-old grandfather would have done. He then should have walked back in his house, locked the door and turned out the lights.


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The Record Courier Updated Nov 10, 2011 05:38PM Published Nov 10, 2011 05:34PM Copyright 2011 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.