I wrote the following post on July 12th. I now sit here, posting this on July 20th after hearing the news that Penn State officials have decided to remove the Joe Paterno statue. I continue to stand by the comments I made in this post. I may be the biggest Barry Bonds hater of them all. However, you cannot make things vanish. You cannot make things disappear. Bonds hit more home runs than Aaron, whether it be legally or illegally. You can asterisk it, you can keep him out of the Hall of Fame, you can throw him in jail, but the fact of the matter is, they happened. Paterno’s legacy may be tainted, but the things he did still happened. You can take away the statue, but you cannot make his actions disappear; not his victories, not his championships, and not his failure to act.
The following is my original post, intended for 7/12/12:
On Thursday, July 12, the Freeh Report chronicling the Penn State-Sandusky scandal was released. The new information has put a gigantic black eye not only on a great school and historic football program, but on one of the most historic faces that has ever been involved with collegiate athletics. The report found that the late Joe Paterno was actively involved in the cover-up of the horrors that Jerry Sandusky was involved with. Paterno, along with the Penn State Athletic Director (Tim Curley), President (Graham Spanier), and Vice President (Gary Schultz) committed federal perjury, telling the grad jury that they knew nothing. Curley, Spanier, and Schultz all will now face a federal trial, while Paterno (who passed away in January after his firing) has had his legacy tarnished. Sandusky has filed an appeal and awaits his fate.
So what now? For the program, what happens next? There has been a call for NCAA sanctions to be thrown at Penn State. The Death Penalty has even been mentioned. But why punish the student athletes and a coaching staff for something they had no part in? The same argument was made for USC and Ohio State. The current players were in middle school (or younger) when the crimes were being committed. Why should they have to suffer the consequences?
“But the school completely lost institutional control.” “But they didn’t break NCAA rules.” “But they did break federal laws.” The argument can go back and forth for days. Each side has a valid argument and the NCAA will need to act quickly.
How about the legacy of Joe Paterno? He is the winningest coach in Division-1 history. He has made contributions on the field and as an ambassador for PSU. 61 years of loyal service to one entity. That’s a rare feat for any sport, school, company, or individual. The PSU Board of Trustees have said that today mares Paterno’s 61 years of service to the University. Paterno’s son, Jay, said “This is one episode in a very very big life,” in defense of his father. Historic coach Bobby Bowden told a State College radio station that he thinks the Paterno statue outside of Beaver Stadium should be removed immediately. What is to be of the Paterno Library? Nike’s World Headquarters in Beaverton, OR, has taken Paterno’s name off of its day-care center on campus. Extra police officers have been stationed to protect the statue in the meantime from vandalism. Glad to see that the State College PD shows up to protect something.
This whole situation is a mess. No matter the outcome, potential NCAA sanctions or the status of Paterno’s legacy, people will be upset. Not enough was done. No one will be happy.
My opinion? Scholarships should be taken away. Fire anyone who is still there that was involved, including the Trustees. Rename the library for Paterno’s wife. It was her money that built it too. And as for the statue, keep it. OJ Simpson has been accused of double murder and is currently serving time in jail for kidnapping and armed robbery. All of this was off the football field. His number still hangs at the Coliseum in Los Angeles. His bust still sits in the Hall of Fame in Canton. Why? Because what he did on the field was great. He broke records, won awards, and is still considered one of the best. Paterno won 409 games, more than any other Division-1 football coach in history. He won two National Championships, 3 Conference Championships, and has the most bowl victories in history. He won 18 different Coach of the Year awards and is a member of the Collegiate Hall of Fame. He worked at Penn State for 61 years, and was head coach for 46. All of these things are amazing feats which we may never see again. The statue is there to honor and commemorate these accomplishments. On the field. Take out the word “Humanitarian” from the wall behind the statue, and let it read “Educator and Coach.” Let the statue stand in honor of what he did, a reminder of what he didn’t, and a lesson to always do the right thing.