Penn State didn't play last week, and their last game was a very memorable yet ugly win against Illinois. Silas Redd scored a touchdown with 1:08 left in the game, and Illinois missed a 42-year-old field goal at the end for a 10-7 Penn State win.
The result was history, Joe Paterno's 409th career victory as a head coach. It was also Joe Paterno's last game at Penn State. In a span of 12 days, Joe Paterno went from preparing his 12th ranked Nittany Lions into a big home game against Nebraska, to fired. Penn State fired Joe Paterno during an 8-1 season, before the last home game. 12 days ago, the thought would have been insane.
Normally on a Friday leading into a November weekend, Penn State football and Joe Paterno would be making their last preparations for an important game. Penn State instead sat back, watched other teams play, as their program was ready to crumble.
When Jerry Sandusky was indicted, and when the charges involved sexual assaults while Sandusky was at Penn State, the proverbial plop sound was to be heard hitting against a fan. Nebraska became irrelevant, as the media swarmed to find out what Paterno knew and what the University knew.
When the media swarms into a story, the usual MO is to sensationalize the ordeal and make the parties guilty before being charged. With this story, the ordeal started with the charges, and it's hard to make underage sexual assault more graphic or sensationalized. This story is about as bad as a University athletic program can get.
Maybe the Baylor basketball scandal compares. Baylor basketball had Dave Bliss. Penn State football is almost a religion in Pennsylvania.
I don't know what Joe Paterno knew or what he did to cover up the ordeal. We are confident he knew something. Which is why Paterno's hollow attempt at being the better man fell on deaf ears.
Joe said he was going to retire at season's end for the sake of the University. Whether it was his passion for his players, or his love for Penn State, or his ego that he was bigger than any board or President, Paterno thought a retirement tour was the way to go out with class, ending with a nice trip to a bowl game.
A man who has experienced so many things through his 84 years on Earth had no perspective in a trying time.
For Joe's sake, to make him feel a bit better, his last game was win 409. That's a pretty solid going away memory.
Think about what Saturday would have been like had Paterno been on the sidelines. A media firestorm clouding a top 20 game in what would be an absolute Cluster-f atmosphere in State College (I figure Happy Valley is probably not accurate these days). College fans saluting Paterno almost in a defiant matter, Paterno getting to walk off or be carried off the field one last time showed over and over again and analyzed on ESPN for days. The black shirts of Nebraska versus the blue of the Nittany Lions would be a fitting visual for the scandal.
I can't imagine the chanting at Ohio State or Wisconsin would have been filled with positive reinforcement and support. In fact, it might have become a less than perfect atmosphere for a football staff shrouded in this awfulness to play and fans full of emotion and 12 ouncers.
Most people tend to strongly dislike kid touchers. The Cluster-f would have went on tour and Penn State would had had almost two months of their school being represented by a legend, but a legend who knew about an awful incident and let it slide.
I sense there will be students and alumni of Penn State supporting Paterno and angry that the school fired him just days after the news came out and the indictments were levied. Just know that for the immediate survival of the athletic program and health of the school, Paterno had to be fired.
No school can have the face of their program be the guy that people look at and have in the back of their minds horrific, awful, terrifying actions that bring chills and tears while in the front of it ask themselves..
"How is a football game more important than this?"