Joe Paterno died the most successful and controversial college football coach ever. One bad decision can ruin a life time of great ones.
On November 9th Paterno was fired after one of his former assistant coaches, Jerry Sandusky, was charged with child molestation. The next weekend Joe Pa was diagnosed with a “treatable form of lung cancer”.
He died Sunday morning.
Joe Pa was not an ordinary college football coach. He once went to the PSU board of trustees to demand they INCREASE entrance requirements. If a player was struggling with a course he had them over to his house for his wife Suzanne’s homemade cooking and tutoring.
Some ten years ago another one of his assistants, Mike Mcqueary, told Joe Pa he had seen Sandusky molesting a child in the Penn State locker room showers. Paterno, in shock and disbelief, told Mcqueary he had done the right thing disclosing what he saw.
Joe Pa then did what he thought was the right thing; tell his bosses, the Penn State board of “trustees”. Paterno trusted the system that was in place. He trusted what he thought he helped build, an honest institution. He trusted himself and PSU too much though. He thought they were incapable of such cruelty. So did everybody else.
Mike Mcqueary was put in a situation that is nearly impossible to imagine. But he crumbled when he needed to be a man. He copped out by telling Paterno instead of the police. He was the one who witnessed the act, nobody else.
The board told Paterno that the matter would be investigated and handled accordingly, which really meant protect Penn State’s reputation, no matter if children are being raped. PSU is no different than any other of the thousands of businesses in the world that would have made similar choices to cover up the crimes. They think only in terms of protecting themselves. No matter how cruel our reality is, it’s still reality.
Yes, Paterno was naïve. Yes he could have, and should have done more. Just like Paterno helped fail the alleged victims, Penn State failed Paterno. But being the face of an institution means taking accountability for the good times….and the bad.
Paterno was often portrayed as a larger than life person, which he was. He was thought of as too good to be true, which he was.
Joe Pa will be buried on Wednesday taking the blame for all of this, just one more thing he’s done for Penn State.