Penn State Scandals: Time for Joe Paterno To Go

Rick MontiCorrespondent IOctober 12, 2007

IconIs it better to be great or classy?

For over 30 years, Joe Paterno was able to be both. Recently, it seems like he can't manage to be either.

The Internet has been buzzing the past few days about Paterno's apparent "road rage" after last Friday's practice.

According to reports, Coach Paterno decided that a woman in front of him was driving erratically. Paterno allegedly pulled in front of the woman, got out of his car, and began to yell.

The woman, in turn, called the cops. State College police announced Thursday that they will not press charges against Paterno.

Make no mistake—I'm not calling for Joe Paterno's resignation over this. You can't fault a hot-headed old-timer for being himself.

That said, the incident does put the icing on the cake of Paterno's most embarrassing season in 40 years at Penn State.

Earlier this spring, three of Paterno's players were charged with crimes in connection with an off-campus scuffle.

When most of the harsher charges were dropped, people adopted a "boys will be boys" attitude, and let the incident go.

Then came a string of underage drinking charges, the most recent two issued after last weekend's win against Iowa.

That same weekend, there were reports of another fight involving players, this time on the Penn State campus.

Including Paterno's vehicular outburst, that makes at least six legal incidents in less than a calendar year.

I would like to think this is simply an out-of-character year for the Nittany Lions, but recent history shows it to be part of a trend.

In 2003, cornerback Anwar Phillips was allowed to play in the Capitol One Bowl while facing rape charges, of which he was later acquitted. Two weeks ago, former Nittany Lion LeVon Chisley was convicted of first- and third-degree murder, and sentenced to life in prison.

When the Nittany Lions suffered through four losing seasons in five years, these off-the-field problems didn't seem to be there (with the exception of Phillips).

My question, then, is this:

Has Penn State given up on "Success With Honor"? Is the dream of the respectable student-athlete gone?

With a heavy heart, I must say that the answer seems to be yes.

It's been coming for some time now—we were just too blind to see it. Penn State players no longer hand the ball to the official immediately after scoring, which was mandated by Paterno for years. They're also no longer scolded for celebrating a touchdown, another erstwhile no-no.

There was a time when regular students could live in the same apartment building as Jack Ham or Lydell Mitchell. But the players have ceased to be true members of the PSU student body, and now stay in their own dorms and eat in their own cafeterias.

I understand that times change, and with the exception of the offense, things in Happy Valley must change too.

But Paterno's no-nonsense values were what always set Penn State apart from the rest of the college football world.

Who knows—10 years from now, the players could be ex-cons with names on the back of their jerseys.

Let's hope that Paterno's not around to see that.

Coach Paterno, a personal hero of mine, needs to get out before it's too late. He suddenly seems to be leaving a black eye on the program he tried so hard to keep classy.

You see, that's another thing that's changing in State College: The old, calm, classy coach doesn't appear so calm or classy anymore.

That's an injustice not only to the university, but also to the man himself.