The Witch Hunt against Joe Paterno
In an explosive scandal at Penn State, Jerry Sandusky,
former defensive coach for Penn State, was charged with sexually assaulting
several young boys. After the media storm that followed, focusing mostly on Penn State football coach Joe
Paterno, the Penn State Board of
Trustees fired University President Graham Spanier and Joe Paterno. As an alumnus
of Penn State, allow me to offer my perspective.
First, when the headline in the news was nothing except
"Jerry Sandusky accused of molesting several children," there was
hardly a peep out of most people. I will, however, brag: I posted about
it immediately and noted the need of institutions revolving around children to
stay vigilant against predators, as child abusers will always be attracted to
where children are. But, standing with me were few people. There was very
little outcry against Jerry Sandusky or so much as a care for the victims. But
as soon as some small connection could be drawn to the popular and well known
Joe Paterno: Outcry! Injustice! Put his head on the stick! The vile crime!
Let's review Joe Paterno's involvement in this. In 2002, an
assistant coach reported to Paterno that he witnessed Sandusky sexually assault
a boy. According to Paterno's statement
to a grand jury, the assistant coach did not give the full, gory details of the
attack. Sandusky, who retired in 1999, did not work under Paterno at the time.
He was retired and his only involvement with the school was the charity he ran.
Paterno turned the matter over to university administrators.
Two administrators have been charged with felonies relating
to the case: Tim Curley, the Athletic director, and Gary Shultz, Vice President
for finance and business. They are charged, among other things, with failure to
report a crime to police.
While most people probably aren't even aware of the above
facts--instead seeming to believe Joe Paterno either murdered or sexually
abused children himself--of those who are aware, they have, at best, 2 problems with
Paterno's involvement. One is that he didn't call the police immediately. The
other is that he didn't follow up with the investigation.
As far as not calling the police immediately, first, Joe Paterno was not the eye witness. The person to do that should
have been the assistant coach, if the police were to be called immediately. After this, there is no
doubt that an institution like Penn State will take some steps to gather facts
before getting the police involved. This process did get underway; handed to
people who, in theory, should have been better qualified to execute this
process. This is not to mention that Paterno was not given full details of the
account. Such details needed to be gathered. If I was a manager at a company
and a former employee reported a security violation to me, I would hand the
issue over to security.
The second, more potent argument is that Joe Paterno should
have followed up with the investigation. Perhaps, in hindsight, this should
have happened. People who see the case now look back, and with their impeccable
hindsight vision, judge Paterno's actions. Paterno himself has said he regrets
not doing more, by that I imagine he means not following up. But this matter
was handed off to what should have been responsible individuals. Why would it
be Joe Paterno's job to make sure they are doing theirs?
I believe Paterno acted within the realm of reason. He did
take responsible action. At the time that the scandal broke, Paterno was not
implicated in any crime.
When you look at what minimal involvement Paterno had in
this scandal compared to the witch hunt for him, enflamed by media articles,
they are completely disproportional. I believe Joe Paterno is the victim of
prejudice and hatred.
The prejudice against him is because he is a football coach.
The articles about Paterno portrayed him as an all-powerful coach that no one
could go up against. "Administrators felt powerless against Joe Paterno"
one of the articles. Those familiar with Penn State will just plain laugh at
this. It is easy to spin the story this way and fool a person several thousand
miles away from Pennsylvania, but not someone who lives there or grew up there.
Paterno is an 84-year old man who most recognize has been the coach in name
only for quite some time. He is kind, gentle, and friendly. You can't fake this
kind of genuineness. But, it is seemingly easy for the public to hate anyone
involved in sports. Take for instance the Duke Lacrosse rape scandal. A woman
accused Duke Lacrosse players of rape and the public and media went completely hysterical
over it; trying the men in the court of public opinion. The imagery of
well-to-do, athletic, handsome men possibly harming someone seems to engender primal
hatred in people. As it turned out, those players were completely innocent. Similarly,
people are chomping at the bit to hate the Penn State football establishment
and especially Joe Paterno. If this were any other group: a female sports team,
a reading club, a public school teacher, there would not be the same level of
Further, there is a hatred of Joe Paterno for he is a hero
and an icon. There are some that would dance at Joe Paterno's grave out of
total jealousy of who he was. He had just recently become the most winningest
coach in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision. I have noticed that those who went
to rival schools, such as the University of Pittsburgh, are some of the
quickest to hurl taunts against Joe Paterno. The Orlando Sentinel had an
"Joe Paterno should have wins stripped so Bobby Bowden can be restored as
all-time winningest coach." Bobby Bowden coached the Florida State
Seminoles--nope, no hidden agenda from the Orlando Sentinel there. Deeper than
that, the media is frothing at the mouth to take down Joe Paterno. Joe Paterno
spent 60 years building a legacy but in a few days the media can tear it down. To
them, that's power.
This entire media storm has served as a convenient lightning
rod against the real problems: obviously Sandusky himself and further, a
culture of corruption within the Penn State administration that engendered the
egregious evil of not reporting this crime.
The Penn State administration is
not just "liberal" but outright nihilistic. The school has a long
history of holding sexually perverse events. One famous one is
"Cuntfest." Another was the art exhibit, "In the Company of
Men." The art exhibit advertised it would have pictures of sports events
and the like but most pictures of sports events were of men in seeming
homoerotic positions, which was easy to do at wrestling practice. Most shocking
was a picture of an adult man and a young boy in what appears to be an erotic
mouth-to-mouth kiss. You can see the picture here. Further, the university
runs the campus like The Thought Police and tries to stamp out dissent. Their
war on conservative political groups is well known. In my senior year at Penn
State, they denied the conservative group YAF an office, something given to
every college group, because they weren't "community minded." When I
tried to start the group I led, the Independent Women's Club, I was at first
denied outright, but eventually allowed after pleading my case. There are many
Who do you think is more responsible for cover-up: The
otherwise beloved Joe Paterno or an institution steeped in sexual perversity
and shutting down dissenting thought? If you are still unsure, consider that while Joe Paterno was apologizing and conceding he should have done more,
Graham Spanier, the now disgraced former President of Penn state, continued to stand
by the accused:
With regard to the other presentments, I wish to say that Tim
Curley and Gary Schultz have my unconditional support. I have known and worked
daily with Tim and Gary for more than 16 years. I have complete confidence in
how they have handled the allegations about a former University employee.
While everyone remains focused on Paterno, the victims and
their parents remain focused on the actual perpetrator. They continue to bring the focus back
on Sandusky himself, demanding appropriate charges are filed against him--sentiments
hardly anyone in the public or media has echoed.
Finally, one of the pieces of ammo thrown against Penn State
is about the riots that followed the firing of Paterno. Surely, this was an
immoral mob who didn't at all care about child abuse and just wanted their
football. What the public needs to realize is that, since the late 1990s, Penn
State students riot over everything. They riot when they win football games.
They rioted when Osama
bin Laden was killed (although that one was more of a congregation in the street,
without violence). They riot because it is a summer
night. This is an ongoing problem at Penn State that needs addressed on its
own right. To use it as political ammunition is just plain lame.
As far as addressing the rioting, one of the best
explanations I heard for the emergence of rioting is the weeding out of school spirit at Penn State. Football games were arranged such that Penn
State never plays another team that could be considered a rival. Penn State students
are lectured on always being polite and to not "taunt" other schools.
We're no better than any other school; we're all in this together. Students
cannot feel a sense of school exceptionalism. Instead of their natural
youthful jubilance going into school spirit; it goes into riots. It is the
feeling of being in a large crowd with an energetic atmosphere that draws them
to the riots. Penn State needs to learn how to let students have this
experience without it ending in tearing down soccer field goals or telephone
poles. The sense of school spirit has, no doubt, been injured after this
scandal and especially the firing of legend Joe Paterno.
Interestingly, with the total change in administration both
in football and university, it is possible that real change can happen at Penn
State. Hopefully the next administration can address some of the ills at Penn
State, while at the same time respecting the heritage of Penn State, a heritage
of which Joe Paterno was integral in building.
It is shameful however that the lynch mob public and media
forced Joe Paterno out of what would have been his final 4 or 5 football games.
He should have been able to finish out his few weeks left as coach and retire
November 11, 2011