This was not the column I had intended to write. I actually was going to write a column about a congressperson that is in the process of suing her constituents because she lost her re-election campaign. The case has moved from the initial phase toward trial, which could have a chilling effect on politics in this country. I guess that one will have to wait until next week (or the week after).
Now, as some of you (Brenda) might know, I am a proud alumnus of the Pennsylvania State University. Since my graduation, many, many moons ago, I have defended Penn States iconic coach, Joe Paterno, from any and all critics I encounter. You see, it would annoy me that, when Penn State is winning all of its football games, the alumni say, Well, the most important thing about Penn State football is that the kids graduate from school, and they rarely get into trouble. The wins on the field are just icing on the cake. Or something like that.
Now, when the old ball team isnt winning, some of those very same boosters say the game has passed Paterno by, and hes got to go, or look at how old he is; how can recruits make a four or five year commitment without knowing how stable the coaching situation is?
At that point, I usually remind them that the wins arent the most important metric for college football players; graduation rates are. Statistically, even if you play football for a premiere college like Penn State, the odds are very, very long that you will actually play on the professional level. And even if you do hit that rarefied air, the chances of you sticking around for more than two or three years is also not in your favor.
Therefore, I really do believe that Paternos mission as the coach is to ensure that his players graduate and become fine, upstanding young men in case the whole football thing doesnt work out. Thats why Penn State has never become the University of Miami, Ohio State or any other team that comes under investigation by the NCAA.
However, even though all seems right with the world in the players camp, the coaches camp couldnt be in more disarray. This past week, former long-time defensive coach Jerry Sandusky was arrested for numerous sexual violations against minors.
Now, allegedly, the most recent crop of matters came after Sandusky had retired. One of the most disturbing revelations is that a graduate assistant came into the locker room and found the defensive coach in the shower with a young boy. Shaken, the G.A. made an appointment with Paterno to discuss the matter. Paterno met with the G.A. and his father, and discussed what the G.A. had seen. Paterno then reported the incident to the athletic director and the V.P. of Finance and let the matter drop.
This is inexcusable.
I realize Paterno is getting up there in years. But there should be no confusion that if there is an allegation made against anyone who is inappropriately involved with a child, that allegation must be reported to the appropriate authorities, i.e., the police or child protective services. To not do so is a horrifying dereliction of duty.
I think I know why Paterno did this. At the heart of the matter was one of his oldest colleagues. A man who not only served Paterno well on the football field, but also as the founder of a charitable organization that served and allegedly helped a number of children in Pennsylvania. Sandusky had a reputation of generally being a good coach, a good husband, a good father; a good man all around. The allegations brought up by the G.A., while they werent dismissed out of hand, were punted upstairs where said allegations were lost in the shuffle. Everyone was secure that they fulfilled their duty the G.A. reported it to Paterno and Paterno reported it to his superiors. Thus, they could all sleep at night.
But their reactions were not nearly enough. Everyone had, at the very least, a moral duty to report what went on. That no one did is a material failure of the entire Penn State administration. In that sense, Paterno is not given a free pass.
It pains me to say that, and, as a result of this matter, Joe must go.
Chris Markham writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.