Few things are as serious than when a person is accused of sexually abusing a child. There is no need to get into the specifics of Jerry Sandusky's case and the debacle that followed on the grounds of Pennsylvania State University.
There is, however, a need to look at the reaction to Bill O'Brien's hiring as the new Penn State football coach.
O'Brien, former quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, was introduced as the new Penn State coach at a press conference on January 7, 2012. After a search that was surely rigorous, Penn State finally found their replacement for Joe Paterno.
It's the first correct thing they've done since the whole thing collapsed all around them. O'Brien, and I'm sure he knows this, will have a lot more on his plate than coaching a football team to be successful. He has to begin to build Penn State from the ground up. He has to begin to restore the faith and the respect of the Nittany Lions that was lost in a matter of a week. He has to start a completely fresh, new legacy for Penn State.
Brandon Short, who played at Penn State under Joe Paterno, needs to realize this as well.
“Penn State is a family and it is real and if they choose to get rid of Bradley and not hire a Penn State coach, then they have turned their backs on our entire family,” Short told SI.com in response to O'Brien's hiring.
Being a college student, I understand the sense of family and unity one has to their alma mater. However, my institution didn't have any one that sexually abused young boys multiple times, which makes the situation completely different. Penn State knowingly harbored an alleged pedophile, they knowingly let Jerry Sandusky around their campus and let him live within society knowing what he had allegedly done.
The "family" at Penn State is dead and gone. The sense of "family" is what got the school in trouble in the first place. Jerry Sandusky, the defensive coordinator for Penn State who was "in the family," allegedly did horrific things and the unwillingness of the Penn State "family" to do the right thing is the reason why they're in the place they're in.
“I don’t want to be affiliated with the university if they don’t choose a Penn State guy because of our standards, our graduation, all the things that have been important… it’s no longer Penn State, so we might as well be in the SEC." Short added.
Standards? You mean the standards that you just tell an alleged sexual predator to stop bringing children around here rather than call the police like a normal human being. You mean the standards that football is more important than reality? If those are the standards of Penn State, you can keep them. Society doesn't want any part of it.
The fact that O'Brien was appointed your new head coach isn't where it didn't become Penn State anymore. Penn State all along was an illusion. Penn State all along was a mirage. What we thought the school stood for fell to pieces the moment justice finally came into play and Sandusky was exposed.
Penn State stopped being Penn State the moment everything became exposed. Sandusky himself and the subsequent lapse in judgment and cover up.
Jay Paterno, son of Joe and on the coaching staff under his father for 17 years, told ESPN, “I don’t think anybody knows really what the guy that follows Joe Paterno is going to face. Nobody knows that. You’re not replacing Joe Paterno. You have become the head coach at Penn State. And the most important thing is that you don’t try and live up to something instead of—of a person. You try and just carry on the goals and the values and the things that have always been a part of this program, and I think that’s the only challenge you have to worry about.”
Of course you're replacing Joe Paterno. How can you not replace a man who coached a team for 46 seasons since 1966? How can you not replace a man who was such an integral part of the program? How can you not replace at man who was, and will be for a while, ingrained in Penn State? The fact that Jay Paterno believes the only challenge O'Brien has to face is continuing the values and goals shows that he's more out of touch than I thought.
When are people going to realize what actually took place? When are the people who still so blindly stand behind the school after such a abomination? I'm not talking about the students. I know there are tons of innocent people at Penn State. I know that not everyone was involved in this.
But the most important thing we have to remember are the most innocent people. The little children whose lives were altered for the worse. The little children who were allegedly raped by an elderly man. Life trumps sports. The reaction that we all saw on our television sets the night Joe Paterno was removed as head coach was sickening itself. However, the reaction to Bill O'Brien being hired as his replacement makes the whole issue even darker.
If the alumni want to renounce their Penn State pride, then so be it. It's probably for the better. There would be no bigger mistake here than to hire someone who is "in the Penn State family." That would only further the problem. That would only make matters worse and it wouldn't change a thing. Isn't that what Penn State is looking for? Change?
They need to change the way they do things. They need to change the perception the people have about their school. They need to, as I said earlier, build from the ground up. The only way you're going to do that is with a fresh face and someone whose going to do things differently, because the way things were being done before is what led to the shame and terrifying collapse of Penn State.