Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Yet another opinion regarding Joe Paterno and Penn State

By this time, everyone in the world has weighed in with an opinion, take, or commentary on the incredibly ugly situation at Penn State.  Here's one more...

I always feared that the longer Joe Paterno remained head coach at Penn State, the greater the likelihood his tenure would end on a bad note.  I knew that it couldn't possibly be anything as awful or embarrassing as Woody Hayes punching an opposing player, but it seemed more likely and certainly possible that the Nittany Lions would have a string of losing seasons, and Penn State would be placed in the uncomfortable position of asking for the old man's resignation.

But never in a million years would I have guessed that Joe Paterno's 45-year head coaching career (61 years counting his time as an assistant) at Penn State would end in such sadness and disgrace.  Never would have I guessed that a football program that, from all outward appearances, represented all that was right and good about college athletics would be brought down by a scandal so sordid and reprehensible.

When Penn State went undefeated in 1994, in the school's second year in the Big Ten, I became interested in and fascinated by Joe Paterno.  I read his autobiography Paterno: By the Book and another book that was an insider's view of the PSU football program called For the Glory.  I came away impressed with Paterno's integrity, and to this day--despite all that has happened recently--still think that overall Paterno is a good man.  Am I wrong to think this?  Have I been duped all along?  It seems possible that as this story continues to unfold, my opinion of Paterno, his staff, and the entire Penn State program may change for the worse.

Of course, the real bad guy in all of this is Jerry Sandusky.  What he did to those boys, if he is proven to be guilty, is nothing short of despicable.

But what was Joe Paterno's role in all of this?  (I suppose all will be revealed in the coming months).  Did Paterno purposely cover up what his friend and assistant Sandusky did?  Did Paterno not fully grasp the seriousness of the sexual abuse accusations?  Was he in a state of denial?  Did he think it would just blow over?

Is it possible that Paterno, like so many others in positions of great power and influence, had achieved a level of arrogance--making him believe that his program was above all of this and it would just all go away?

So far, all I've done is ask questions that, as of right now, have no answers. 

The only thing I know for sure is that I always had the greatest respect and admiration for Joe Paterno and the Penn State football program.  Penn State football seemed to embody such great attibutes as humility, dedication, integrity, and commitment to excellence.  Now I'm not so sure what to think anymore.

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