09 November 2011

Why Joe Paterno Had to Go

In the wake of the incredibly disturbing and despicable charges against former long-time Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, who has been charged with sexual abuse and assault of minors (read the grand jury report as well as a timeline of events), scandal has enveloped the entire campus in State College, Pennsylvania. Legendary Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno, who just last Saturday became the winningest coach in Divsion 1 football history, has been caught in the thick of it and just today announced his retirement at the end of the season after 60-plus years of continuous service at Penn State. Here is why he had to step down. 
Of all the cases mentioned in the grand jury report, the one that affects Paterno is the case of Victim 2. On March 1, 2002, then graduate assistant Mike McQueary, now assistant head coach/receivers coach, entered one of the locker rooms and witnessed in the shower Sandusky anally penetrating a boy, age estimated at the time to be ten years old. McQueary did not stop Sandusky's actions, or at least per the report, but he was seen by Sandusky and the boy and immediately left and was distraught. McQueary immediately thereafter called his father and told him what he saw. They then agreed that younger McQueary had to report what happened to Paterno the next morning which he did. Paterno then relayed what McQueary had seen to Athletic Director Tim Curley.
During this process, no one notified the police of what happened. The university police never questioned McQueary on what he saw. And no investigation into what had happened occurred until McQueary testifed in front of a grand jury in December of last year. How in the world does someone witness what was a rape of a minor and the multiple adults that were told about what happened and not one called the police. That is what bothers people nationwide and why Paterno had to go. 
Technically Paterno did nothing wrong, legally speaking. He reported what happened to his direct superior. But morally it was his inaction that is so shameful. Why didn't Paterno go to the police? 
Let's say hypothetically speaking Paterno went to the police and told the cops that a graduate assistant witnessed a man committing a sexual assuault in a minor in a shower on campus. Policemen don't take accusations of rape lightly and without question would they have looked into this because there was a witness (McQueary) as well as the fact that Paterno would not just go to the police and make something like that up. Even if a police investigation found nothing, which would be doubtful because there was an eyewitness, it's out of Paterno's hands. And most likely Sandusky's actions would have been found been much, much earlier than now. 
Is it a shame that Paterno's historic tenure at Penn State, in which he took that school and made it nationally prominent on and off the football field, has to end with such an asterisk like this? Sure. But by no means is Paterno a victim here and people have to realize that. The victims here are those boys who had been sexually assaulted by a man using a charity as a front for sexual abuse. You would have thought that a man known for doing it the right way like Paterno was would have notified the police of what happened. But he didn't. Nobody from the university did. Nobody from the university even tried to seek out Victim 2. 
But Paterno today did the best that he could do know and was extremely regretful for what had happened and that he should have done more. He said in a statement that "This is a tragedy" and that it is "one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight , I wish I had done more." And while nothing can be done now about what happened back in 2002, at least Paterno's attempt at expressing a large amount of regret for what happened allows him to regain some respect for his storied career. But regardless, one cannot deny that his legacy has been sullied a bit. 

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