Joe Paterno Fired: What Should Penn State Communicate to Players, Student Body

Jonathan McDanalContributor IIINovember 9, 2011

STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 9: Steve Garban (L) and John Surma announce that Penn State president Graham Spanier and football head coach Joe Paterno will leave the university immediately during the Penn State Board of Trustees Press Conference at the Penn Stater on November 9, 2011 in State College, Pennsylvania. Paterno and Spanier have lost their positions amid allegations that former former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was involved with child sex abuse.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

In light of the Joe Paterno termination, and Graham Spanier's resignation, there are thousands of Penn State alumni and student body completely in awe of the circumstances.  They are all outraged, and nobody more than the current Penn State students. This is exactly what college football is not about.

College football is a sport where high school boys are taught valuable life lessons, such as perseverance, positive attitude, strength, and the unquenchable thirst for excellence. As Joe Paterno departs Penn State, there are some things he needs to tell his troops on the way out.

First, he needs to emphasize that a major lesson to be learned in all this is that you are never to cut corners or cover up for friends or acquaintances. No one in the world would wish the circumstances at Penn State on anyone else, and certainly no one would want them to carry on as long as they are alleged to have happened. If anyone can stop something like this from happening, they should do so without hesitation.

If there is one thing we all learn from growing up, it's that strength is not only to be used for ourselves.  Paterno needs to tell them next, that those who are strong are also placed on this earth to stand up for those who are too weak or afraid to stand for themselves.

Men are born on the gridiron. Some are raised in championship programs, and others are raised on the same field to compete for an overall winning record. All of them are taught the same basic principles, as Bear Bryant said, "I have tried to teach them to show class, to have pride, and to display character. I think football, winning games, takes care of itself if you do that."

Football, for the players, the student body, and the fans is about the spirit of teamwork that is displayed on the field, week-in and week-out. No other sport requires 100 percent effort from 100 percent of the players 100 percent of the time just to win one important game. If the allegations are true, this is exactly why "the good of the team" should always be more important than individual good.

Thirdly, he needs to tell them that this is unacceptable in all walks of life. Under no circumstances is it okay to cover up wrongdoing to save an individual's "reputation." Individuals are all to be held responsible for their decisions, regardless of how bad the decisions were.

If you make bad decisions on the football field, no one covers it up. You lose. There is no individual worth jeopardizing the reputation of an entire university for. Individual responsibility is a hallmark off college football. All 22 men doing their best at all times, and nothing less.

Fourth, these players need to be told that they had nothing to do with the current circumstances.  It was in no way their faults, not a single one of them. They need to be told that, though these things happened, they are not the rule, they are the exception.

Lastly, they need a reason to play.  Right now, they are devastated, as we all are. Their loyalties are deeply in question. Their school pride is completely gone.  They all need to be shown that, one day, games will matter again. They need to be reassured that those responsible for these crimes will be punished. No amount of punishment will be enough, especially for the victims and their families, but whatever can be done needs to be done.

They need to be allowed to play for the Penn State they signed with, not the one mired in scandal. Let the firing and hiring go quickly. Let Penn State show that they in no way condone this type of behavior. Let Penn State's football players step out onto the field with their heads held high, not because they play for Penn State, but because they play football and they play it with integrity.

Lastly, Paterno needs to apologize. It needs to be the final statement to the players and the student body. Years from now, it needs to echo in their minds as the last words he spoke to them.  It will help them heal and move on from this disaster.

In short, the players and students need hope.  Hope that they can continue to play a game that matters. A game not shrouded in criminal charges, resignations, careers ending, and shame.  These players need to be promised, not only by Paterno, but by the fans, that we will not let these men dominate their futures, as they will undoubtedly dominate their present lives.

"We are...Penn State!" The cheer rings at their sporting events. They need to chant it with pride, knowing that the university is helping punish whoever may be guilty in the end.