Joel: Most recent report discredits Joe Paterno
By Blaze Joel, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, July 20, 2012
While I was cleaning my room over winter break, I found my autographed Joe Paterno photo buried among some commemorative Sports Illustrated issues. About a month before, Paterno had been fired from Pennsylvania State University. In December, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died in January.
Throughout the unfolding of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, I defended Paterno. I felt for the guy. After all, he had donated $4 million to build a library at Penn State and had donated money and time to the Four Diamonds Fund to help children suffering from cancer. He was a major force in making Penn State, both the football team and the university, a national brand. I always felt that he could have done more when allegations against Sandusky were first made, but was hesitant to condemn him without more facts.
That all changed when the Freeh Report came out last Thursday.
The independent investigation into the Sandusky scandal at Penn State found that the top people at the university, including former President Graham Spanier, former Vice President Gary Schultz, former Athletic Director Tim Curley and former head coach Joe Paterno, knew what happened. According to the report, not only did they know, they had known for years. And not just that, they made a concerted effort to conceal this knowledge.
It turns out that instead of doing more, Paterno should have just done something. Something — anything — to stop Sandusky. He did not.
Paterno’s football team was dubbed the Great Experiment, filled with athletes that he expected to excel both athletically and academically. He and his program were determined to win the “right way,” graduating players and avoiding recruiting scandals. The team did just that for the greater part of the 61 years Paterno dedicated to the university, 46 of them as head coach.
Penn State football has a motto: success with honor. This motto was cast aside by its head coach and the university’s administrators in the handling of Jerry Sandusky and his inappropriate conduct with minors.
The scathing report stated in no uncertain terms that “in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at the University — Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley — repeatedly concealed critical facts about Sandusky’s child abuse from authorities, the university’s Board of Trustees, the Penn State community and the public at large.”
Paragraph after paragraph, the facts just kept coming.
“Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State,” the report’s authors wrote. “The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized. [They] never demonstrated, through actions or words, any concern for the safety and well-being of Sandusky’s victims until after Sandusky’s arrest.”
Success with honor?
They knew in 1998. And did nothing. They knew in 2001. And did nothing. They knew all the way up to Sandusky’s arrest last November. And did nothing. In my last column about this scandal, I posed the question, “Why?” Now I know. Now everyone knows. The Freeh Report summed it up for everyone: “in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity.”
Success with honor?
As demonstrated by emails used as evidence in the report, Spanier, Curley and Schultz were all prepared to report Sandusky to the authorities, but rethought the decision “after speaking with Joe,” who the report describes as following the situation “closely.” It seems as if Paterno influenced exactly how Penn State decided to handle this situation. He was the one who allegedly decided to keep this in-house and not expose Sandusky to the media, “in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity” for his university, for his program and for his image.
Success with honor?
Paterno, Curley, Schultz and Spanier had the choice to stop Sandusky and did not. They chose their own reputations, as well as the reputation of their university, over the welfare of Sandusky’s victims. Denial may have been a safe and happy place for them, but where is the honor in sitting and doing nothing, with no regard for all of the people that Sandusky abused after they found out about his transgressions in 1998?
Despite all of the good that Paterno has done, this will be the lasting image in my mind. If Penn State avoids the NCAA’s “death penalty” and gets to play football this year, every time they show Beaver Stadium and the Joe Paterno statue that sits outside, the images that will come to my mind will be of the legendary coach’s ultimate failure, not his many successes.
Paterno may have done a lot of good and had a lot of success in his life, but when it mattered most, when he could have protected innocent children, he decided to put the reputation of himself, of his team and of his university first, and where’s the honor in that?