On Tuesday night, a gaggle of Penn State University (PSU) students flocked to blindly support a man who may have intentionally shielded a child molester. Nittany Lions’ legendary football coach Joe Paterno thanked those who came out to support him amidst the recent child molestation charges brought against his former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky. With all the deserved media criticism that Paterno has received for his role in this mess since these reports surfaced last Saturday, I honestly didn’t see that kind of support coming his way.
As it stands now, it appears that at best Paterno was morally negligent and deferential to acts of incompetence of those above him. Sure, Paterno told his athletic director Tim Curley after the football team’s graduate assistant recounted horrific acts he witnessed between Sandusky and a boy estimated to be 10-years-old in the Penn State locker room showers back in 2002. But that doesn’t clear Paterno of guilt. When Curley and university President Graham Spanier didn’t act and call the police following the 2002 incident as required by Pennsylvania state law, Paterno could have. He didn’t. When those higher ups didn’t seek out the boy that Sandusky molested in the shower of Paterno’s own locker room to check on his well-being and get his account of what occurred, the iconic coach could have. He didn’t.
Instead, Sandusky was allowed to roam free and remained a presence at Penn State. He continued to work with his charity, The Second Mile, which constantly put him in close contact and in a position of power over troubled young boys. Sandusky has officially been charged with 40 different offenses, seven of which are involuntary deviate intercourse, and the failure to act on those in positions of power at Penn State back in 2002 could have prevented who knows how many of those atrocities.
So given all the information we currently have, why on earth would over 1,000 people of the PSU student body conduct a rally for Paterno on Tuesday night? Because he has 409 career wins? Please, don’t be ignorant. If they had any sense, those students would have done something (a vigil, perhaps) to mourn those whose lives were eternally scarred thanks to a sick and evil man and powerful enablers who decided it would be too embarrassing for their precious University to blow the whistle on him.
Instead, those in attendance of that rally elevated their iconic football coach over the innocence of those children. Rather than partaking in silent, somber prayers to whichever deity each person believes in, the mob boisterously cheered, “We want Joe” and “Beat Nebraska.” Hello? This is more important than football.
If police in mob gear needed to be in attendance, it should have been because the “Penn Staters” were up in arms and calling for the figurative heads of JoePa and Spanier (and the actual head of Sandusky).
Curley and a fellow cover-up accomplice Gary Schultz, the university’s vice president, resigned this past Sunday. Last night Spanier joined those two, as he was dismissed from his post as university president.
Meanwhile, Paterno announced that he will be retiring once the season is complete, hoping for a chance to not have his storied career abruptly end amid one of the nastiest scandals the sports world has ever seen.
But while the student body is apparently okay having a coach who let a sexual predator stay a free man, Paterno cannot be allowed to coach another day. The Penn State Board of Trustees needs to either force his resignation or fire Paterno if he refuses. This should be blatantly obvious to all “Penn Staters,” but I suppose there are some who are too preoccupied with the Nittany Lions 8-1 record and 5-0 mark in the “Leaders” division of the Big 10.
Yet while the blind PSU fans look at the standings, I’m too busy digesting the irony that when all those prepubescent boys needed help, Penn State lacked an actual “leader” to step up and squash Sandusky eight years earlier.