Penn State Football: Nittany Criminals?

Peter FleischerSenior Writer IJuly 28, 2008

As a huge JoePa fan, I was greatly disappointed and concerned after watching ESPN today and finally getting the full story on Penn State's recent behavioral problems with young players. According to many experts close to the situation, Happy Valley may have turned to Crime Valley right in front of our eyes.

I was alarmed to see that in 2007 alone, there were 17 players involved with 72 different crime charges, with nine convictions. Although Penn State has picked up the pace on the gridiron in the last three years, with 29 wins and three bowl victories, I wonder if the price is worth the reward.

Clearly, Paterno has decided to throw his values to the way-side, and instead take the risk of bringing in thugs and terrible human beings to Penn State, in order to maintain his legacy of success.

Wait a second...not so fast.

I agree that the situation at Penn State is disturbing. There have been a ridiculous amount of problems at the school in the past five years or so, and that situation needs to be addressed. But I completely disagree that JoePa intentionally decided to recruit lower character kids in order to return to college football hierarchy.

Penn State is a program that used to be known for high graduation rates and capable students. Don't forget that JoePa is the coach that made the motto, "school first, football second," such a common mantra today.

The allegations that Paterno is old and incapable of bonding with players are obviously valid. He's 81, and quite frankly has less and less to relate to with these current athletes. But I hardly believe that Paterno has "switched to the dark side."

Let's get real here. First of all, Paterno can hardly know if a young player is going to cause trouble once on campus. Why are the young athletes, the same ones that get SO much negative publicity at places like Miami U in Florida and Oklahoma not getting the same spotlight at Penn State? They are still ultimately responsible for their actions.

And also, why is Paterno getting singled out here? Yeah, he's 81. But that is about the only thing that would separate him from coaches at Florida State, Florida, and other places that have traditionally had issues with talented student athletes getting in trouble. This is assuming he even has consciously decided to take more risks on the recruiting trail.

JoePa is getting crucified nationally for doing something that A; you can't prove, and B; everybody else is doing, again assuming he's guilty. It's not that I mind college sports getting cleaned up. I'm quite the opposite. But to act like Joey P. is leading the crusade into convict college sports is absurd.

I agree that he is getting old and should conclude his coaching career sooner than later, but let's not rip this man's character here. Joe Paterno is clearly one of the best intentioned and admirable coaching figures in the history of sports. Let's not disrespect him by dragging his name through mud that he doesn't belong in.