Penn State Scandal: Football Will Go on Without Joe Paterno

Connor KieselContributor INovember 10, 2011

STATE COLLEGE, PA - SEPTEMBER 3:  Penn State head coach Joe Paterno addresses the media after the game against the Indiana State Sycamores on September 3, 2011 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Everyone’s mad at someone. Everyone has an opinion on who was right and wrong.

Penn State students are flipping over a media truck and screaming against the Board of Trustees. Students angry that the media made it all about JoePa and led to his firing.

But scapegoating the media is not the answer. Scapegoating the Board of Trustees is not either.

The people truly at fault are the ones who created and then allowed this to go on, to become a mess. Jerry Sandusky, Tim Curley, Gary Schultz, Graham Spanier, Mike McQueary, Joe Paterno. You can’t blame one and not the other.

The first three are most at fault: Sandusky, the sickening perpetrator of the molestation of young boys according to a grand jury report, and Curley/Schultz, the men at the top of the chain of command who chose to ignore it.

Paterno and McQueary fall in the middle. McQueary witnessed a horrifying act and reported it to his superior. Paterno was informed and told Tim Curley. They did something, maybe not enough.

There was no easy answer to what to do with Paterno. No solution that would come close to pleasing everyone.

Fire him, as the Board of Trustees did, and face a firestorm from the legion of Penn State students and supporters—an avid and extremely passionate base.

Let him coach out the season and get chastised for not doing enough, allowing a man who was a part of a heinous scandal to remain the face of a tattered program.


Truly, step back and you can see both sides of it. Understand both rationales.

When put in the place of Paterno or McQueary, doing what they did may have seemed like the right thing. Hindsight is 20/20. Many people don’t go above and beyond.

Sadly, people don’t always take the ideal, morally perfect action, in many aspects.

The Seattle Times did a feature expose in 2003 on coaches who prey, many keeping their jobs as teachers and coaches, as administrators didn't address it. It’s years old but still relevant. Those known for molestation and sexual abuse continuing to get hired because they’re successful as coaches.

Winning trumps morality.

Breaches of morality mean saving face, usually cleaning house. That’s why Joe Paterno’s gone. The Board of Trustees had to send a message. I don’t know how you legislate morality, but apparently, the Board of Trustees does.

Lots and lots of muck and mire get covered up. Thinking about how many scandals fester in the seedy world of college athletics is sickening.

The most sickening thing to remember though is the details of that 23-page grand jury report, just the mere thought of Jerry Sandusky even placing his right hand on a child’s left thigh while driving, let alone the much more explicit actions he took.

STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 9: Students and those in the community fill the streets and react after football head coach Joe Paterno was fired during the Penn State Board of Trustees Press Conference, in downtown Penn State, November 9, 2011 in State Coll
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

That’s what this is all about. As we argue about what more could have been done, we must think of what now can be done for the victims. The strength it took for them to speak up years later. Even beginning to understand their psyche is impossible.


It’s now almost trite to say it’s all about the victims. But it is. Kids who had innocence stripped away from them.

Joe Paterno had many joyous moments in his illustrious career as a coach at Penn State. He is neither the perpetrator nor victim.

In that regard, it’s black and white: Sandusky the abuser, the kids who were molested by an old man the victims.

Football will go on without Paterno. It really will.

Look outside the football prism, and please, just don’t ignore the real victims again. Too many who could have changed this story already have. 


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