Joe Pa: The Good The Bad And The Ugly

Joe Paterno died the most successful and controversial college football coach ever.  One bad decision can ruin a life time of great ones.

Joe Paterno is the most successful college football coach of all time.  In forty-six years at the helm of the Penn State football team Joe Pa racked up 409 wins, two national championships and five undefeated seasons.  He never had a single major NCAA violation.  Yet, his negligence in one monumental moment of weakness is what he will always be remembered for, maybe rightfully so.

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.

English: Mike McQueary coaching from the sideline

Mike McQueary (Image via Wikipedia)

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.

Penn State Nittany Lions head coach Joe Patern...

Joe Paterno (Image via Wikipedia)

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.

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2 responses to “Joe Pa: The Good The Bad And The Ugly

  1. After all he did for Penn State, it was wrong for the school to sell him out the way they did. This was an old man who literally could do nothing but coach football, so they took advantage of him and put the brute of this horrendous story on him. I cannot help but feel that the pigs at the top of this university are somewhat responsible for his demise and ultimate death. Coaching those boys was all that kept him going.

  2. Joe did not tell the Board of Trustees (slanted article?). Joe held the information passed on by McQueary over a weekend, and then told his Supervisor (as required). That is where Joe’s involvement ended.

    Why he never followed up is a matter of speculation, but it does not look good. It sure looks like Joe wanted to protect the brand, and keep this in-house as much as the rest of them did.

    I believe it was proper to clean house, and for that to include Joe Paterno. The upcoming lawsuits will be enormous.

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