Joe Pa Forgot The Most Important Thing

Joe Paterno has won more games than any coach in the history of major college football.

Joe Paterno has been a long-time benefactor of Penn State University, where his and his family’s donations total in to the millions of dollars and have built libraries and created laboratories far beyond the athletics department during his 62 years on campus.

Joe Paterno for 46 years has been the head coach and leader each year of 100-plus players, assistant coaches and countless other staff members. He has coached fathers, and then their sons. He’s revered by nearly everyone that’s been part of the Nittany Lions program since he replaced his mentor Rip Engle for the 1966 season.

Joe Paterno is the father of five and grandfather of 17. He was a loving son and brother.

Joe Paterno is and has been a lot of things. But first and foremost, Joseph Vincent Paterno was a person, a human being raised in Brooklyn, a graduate of the Brooklyn Preparatory School, the U.S. Army and Brown University. He was brought up to know the difference between right and wrong.

And it is his failure as a person that has brought down the life he’s built over the last half-century. He has no one to blame but himself.

Meeting Wednesday evening, the Penn State University Board of Trustees voted to fire Paterno immediately.

From the very first moment Paterno heard that one of his assistant coaches had an attraction to young boys and was acting on his desires, Paterno should have dropped all the other torches he carried and simply become a person, a father with sons, a grandfather with grandsons, a man who knew what he was hearing was wrong. He was in a position to do something about it.

Paterno could have been compassionate and forced his friend and former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky to confront his demons. Paterno could have simply walked all the information down to the police station and demanded action.

Just a few miles outside of State College sits the Rockview State Correctional Institution. Paterno should have immediately taken this pervert and dropped him at the front door.

Instead, he followed the chain of command, and told the man who theoretically was his boss about the information that was brought to him by another one of his assistants.

Then, Paterno walked away from the situation. That is as wrong a reaction as humanly possible. And, it wasn’t the first time he walked away from Sandusky and his peccadilloes. Authorities questioned Sandusky in 1998 about his activities with children. There were no sanctions against him.

Paterno knew all of this then. Four years later, an eyewitness tells him that Sandusky was in the shower with a 10-year old and was engaging in a sexual act. His reaction it to tell his boss, and then walk away? That’s a corruption of morals that can’t be ignored, or explained away. Whether because of concerns about his program, his university, his family, his friend and one-time assistant, there’s no way Paterno the person can sit back and not react to the information.

Sometimes fans and the media horde forget that the people we watch perform and cheer are human, with all the foibles of the rest of the population. They are not any smarter, wiser or immune to the corruption of their morals than anyone else.

Throughout his tenure, Penn State earned the distinction of being one of those football programs that did things the right way. Players went to class, they earned degrees, there was no hint of recruiting scandals or pay for play, and they won games, a lot of games. All of it was choreographed by Paterno.

That makes what has happened so remarkably impossible to understand. As details emerge we are seeing that Paterno’s moral fiber had been compromised at some point. Protecting his program and university was more important than protecting an innocent.

Penn State University and the town that holds it State College, sits in the middle of the state of Pennsylvania. It’s a very insular community in geography and attitude. State College is not on the way to anywhere. No matter the direction, you have to drive through the mountains to reach the place that for years has been called Happy Valley.

Except right now, things are not so happy. The face of Penn State University and his legacy have been smeared because Joe Paterno forgot that first and foremost, he wasn’t a football coach. He was a person.

14 Responses to “Joe Pa Forgot The Most Important Thing”

  • November 9, 2011  - JB says:

    At Penn State under Paterno–child rape was just collateral damage……

  • November 9, 2011  - johnfromfairfax says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more Bob. It’s a shame it had to end this way but he has nobody to blame but himself. Think of the other young children that were victimized by Sandusky (and there were assuredly more than are even known now) from the time that Paterno knew about what he was doing and did not take proper action to stop him. It’s a tragic end to a storied career.

  • November 10, 2011  - Milkman says:

    Paterno has nobody but himself to blame for any embarrasment he may be feeling over getting fired. Instead of waiting for or talking to the board of trustees, he announced his own decision to retire at the end of the season. It was the wrong decision and the board had no choice when they fired him. If he would have waited to talk to them first, he could have just stepped down and saved himself a lot of embarresment. But evidently he thought he was above reproach. I guess he found out there are more important things than football.

  • November 10, 2011  - RW says:

    Well said and good reporting, Bob. What else can be said about this highly disturbing series of events? I’m at a loss but am heartened to hear the Penn State board did the right thing in firing both the college president and Paterno on Wednesday night.

  • November 10, 2011  - BigJimInWisconsin says:

    Well done Bob.

  • November 10, 2011  - leonard says:

    I have to take issue with your point Bob. First , you say he knew about the previos allegations. I have seen nowhere where that has been established. These are things you just can’t make assumptions on. It appears to me that the University police, and administration knew about them. As far as what he had done. First, he followed University employment procedures period. We do not know if he did nothing to follow up, but remember an allegation does not prove anything, That is why policies are in place. This man was a close friend, and somtimes you mind just can’t grasp that it could be true. That is why informing the Administration of the allegation was proper. It as theirresponsibity to do something. It is real easy to judge, when you are not in their shoes.
    Paterno is the scape goat for the Boards inaction. They are the real culprits. If they had done their job in 1998, all this would be a moot point. You always have to have someone to hang out to dry, and Paterno is that man. He did absolutely nothing wrong. Save your outrage for the real responsible parties. The Board, the Administration, and the Campus Police.

  • November 10, 2011  - Steve says:

    Bob – you are 100% correct. Paterno’s failure was compounded by his exalted status. You’ve heard of banks too big to fail in this economy – Paterno became too big to fire. The board must have realized if they didn’t act immediately its inaction not only brought more shame on the university, it increased the chance Paterno would have his job until he died.

  • November 10, 2011  - Johnfromwichita says:

    Sorry, my 22 years in the Air Force is about show. Paterno did the only thing he could do; he passed the info up his chain of command. Every large organization has a protocol and a chain of command. Paterno is a football coach, not an administer. If he took the info to those above him that’s all he should have done. If he had gone directly to the police he would, or should,have been fired. Look at Wal-Mart employees that stoped a shoplifiting or robbery and got fired because they didn’t follow company protocol. But fired over the phone? Think a new board is called for.

  • November 10, 2011  - Craig says:

    When one is in a position of power and prestige; there is a moral obligation to help protect those in a lesser postion and more so for those who are unable to protect themselves. Evil succeeds when good men do nothing to prevent it. If Joe Paterno knew of this and did nothing but the minimalist obligations, then shame on him. This type of abuse stays with people for a long, long time and some never recover. Pray for the abused and even the abusers.

  • November 10, 2011  - TDKC says:

    Well written Bob.

    Joe had the clout at Penn State to get something done about this abuse. Even after the administrators did not.

  • November 10, 2011  - JB says:

    Hey Leonard get a grip–from the Grand Jury report

    –On March 1, 2002, a Penn State graduate assistant (“graduate assistant”) who was then 28
    years old, entered the locker room at the Lasch Football Building on the University Park Campus
    on a Friday night before the beginning of Spring Break. The graduate assistant, who was
    familiar with Sandusky, was going to put some newly purchased sneakers in his locker and get
    some recruiting tapes to watch. It was about 9:30 p.m. As the graduate assistant entered the
    locker room doors, he was surprised to find the lights and showers on. He then heard
    slapping sounds. He believed the sounds to be those of sexual activity. As the graduate assistant
    put the sneakers in his locker, he looked into the shower. He saw a naked boy, Victim 2, whose
    age he estimated to be ten years old, with his hands up against the wall, being subjected to analintercourse by a naked Sandusky. The graduate assistant was shocked but noticed that both
    Victim 2 and Sandusky saw him. The graduate assistant left immediately, distraught.
    The graduate assistant went to his office and called his father, reporting to him what he
    had seen. His father told the graduate assistant to leave the building and come to his home. The
    graduate assistant and his father decided that the graduate assistant had to report what
    he had seen to Coach Joe Paterno (“Paterno”), head football coach of Pemi State. The next
    morning, a Saturday, the graduate assistant telephoned Paterno and went to Paterno’s home,
    where he reported what he had seen.
    Joseph V. Paterno testified to receiving the graduate assistant’s report at his home on a
    Saturday morning.

  • November 11, 2011  - Milkman says:

    Well put JB. How anyone can excuse Paterno from his non-involvement is beyond me. His “superiors” is just a word. There is no one at Penn State with more clout than Paterno. How can he know something like this happened in his locker room shower and not do more to see this pervert behind bars? Things that awful should not require any more thought than finding the # to the police station.

  • November 11, 2011  - SGL says:

    Hey, from here in Pennsylvania, this is just as vile as it gets. What is really sad is that Joe Paterno, and others, never bothered to ask a question after they knew about what apparently amounted to child rape. So, Joe worked for YEARS AND YEARS with Sandusky. Presumably, they were friends of “sorts” at least. Yet, after he reported the alleged rape to his athletic director, Joe “never spoke of it again.” Seriously.. This is where I just go off a deep end. Joe Paterno let himself down. My guess is he would say this right now. I feel sorry about his lost legacy but not sorry that he was removed for his total lapse of judgement.

    Now, what about Coach Mike McQuery? Yes, he was young. Young, in his mid-twenties when he observed what he believed to be a rape of a 10 year old boy occurring right in front of him. Back East we are asking ourselves, why did he not rush in to stop Sandusky? Why did he back away and call his dad instead of saving the victim…? Why didn’t he ever check after the events to see if this was being investigated?

    This is all really sad here in Pennsylvania. But, the upside is that thank GOD this has been exposed and while the fall out will take years to recover from, for the victims sake, this is all good that finally, it is coming out.

  • November 11, 2011  - SGL says:

    Just heard this, ‘As a member of the human race, you have a responsibility to protect children.”

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