He was the quintessential college football coach in charge of the model college football program at a legendary college football university. He was the man that even other legendary coaches looked up and aspired to. He was the embodiment of integrity, ethics, morality and balance of perspective. His students not only graduated, but graduated with honors. Many of his graduates went on to graduate school and to places in life where they made a real difference. He won more games than any other top-level coach in the history of the game. He was college football.
As usual with situations that look too good to be true, Penn State was not true. In no time at all, Joe Paterno and the other "leaders" at Penn State went from being role models and the ideal university football program to being a pathetic and sad cautionary tale. The Penn State scandal points out the myriad of problems that have become the fundamental values that drive college football today: ego, money and reputation. While what happened at Penn State is particularly and egregiously evil, the attitudes and perspectives that created it and allowed it to fester into the incredible mess that it has become are prevalent almost everywhere in college football.
While it is easy to point fingers at Penn State and Coach Paterno, it is important to remember that when one points a finger at others, there are four fingers pointing right back at them. Penn State's crisis is troubling beyond comprehension, and one has to wonder what caused it and if, or perhaps when, something similar will happen again. These issues need to be addressed openly and honestly, and each institution, and each person in those institutions, needs to examine not just Penn State, but themselves as well. College football will not survive this happening again.
If no one learns anything else from this disaster, what must be learned is that children are our most valuable resource and that football is simply a game. If a football game is won or lost, some are happy, some are sad and life goes on. When a child is sexually abused, the world does not go on, for that child, the child's parents, family, friends or future.
Penn State's scandal is not about football; it is about the abuse of power by moral and ethical cowards who were more concerned about the success of a game and protecting their obscenely undeserved salaries than the innocence of children who have now been permanently scarred. A game was made more important than children.
Why did this happen?