Joe Paterno: Penn State's Support of Famed Coach Is Expected, but Not Deserved

Joye PruittSenior Analyst INovember 10, 2011

STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 9: Students and those in the community fill the streets and react after football head coach Joe Paterno was fired during the Penn State Board of Trustees Press Conference, in downtown Penn State, November 9, 2011 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

When I was younger, my mother would always tell me that I could tell her anything. That I could go to her and tell her when something right was happening and when something wrong was going on in my life and she would be right there. Right there to defend me, stand up for me or pick me up when necessary.

My mother never let me down as she was a pure protector of anything that was a legal, physical or moral injustice against me. Why did she do this? Not just because she was my mother, because there are plenty who could give a damn about their children. Not just because she was legally inclined to feed me while I was in her care. Not just because there would be a bevy of guardians and protectors in the community to scold her if she had not.

She protected me, especially when I was a child, because at most times, I would have been unable to protect myself.

It was her duty as an adult and my mother to defend me against all inequalities and wrongdoings because I may not have been able to defend myself. Her voice was always grander than mine therefore she used that to my advantage and took charge in instances where I may not have been heard.

It is incomprehensible that there are people continuing to create a defense in light of a man who refused to do so for a helpless child that was reportedly raped by one of his colleagues. Joe Paterno’s personal relationship with Jerry Sandusky and the reputation of the Penn State’s higher grain of moral values were at risk.

Instead of doing what is morally right, Paterno decided to solely inform his superiors within the school system and go on about his football life. At what time he knew about the allegations is not of a primary concern. The fact that there was even a possibility that this man was taking advantage of the very children that he pledged to protect and guide should have been cause for police involvement.

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA - NOVEMBER 08:  Penn State University head football coach Joe Paterno is surrounded by the media while leaving the team's football building on November 8, 2011 in University Park, Pennsylvania. Amid allegations that former assistant Je
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But, just as is every other power in America, the Penn State football program needed to keep its hands clean for the good of many. Therefore, the well-being of one, which we now know to be more than a few, was compromised in the face of critical exposure and bad press.

Penn State fans and supporters, I can understand your plight. Here is an institution that has been held in such high regard for such a long time. Who is apt to accepting the fact that this amount of sexual deviance and blind eyes were in fact brewing behind the most bolted of closed doors?

No one wants to infer that this was going on right under their noses. That a man that so many people praised for being a supreme motivator, a great football coach, a FATHER figure and just one hell of a guy could be involved in covering up something as shameful as the alleged sexual assault of a minor on campus grounds.

It sits right in front of you in black and white that Paterno was informed. Even if Sandusky is not ultimately found guilty of the multiple counts of sexual assault he is facing in court, the fact will still remain that Paterno, a coach, a father, a grandfather and an all-around hell-of-a guy, turned his back on such a vulnerable human being.

A child.

The firing of Joe Paterno and president Graham Spanier are only signals to the students, supporters and outsiders looking in that this type of behavior should not be tolerated. Their intentions by cleaning house are not by moral standards, so please do not misconstrue them.

The Board of Trustees are in place to make sure that the school is being run by individuals that consciously and continuously put the university in the best position in the eye of the students, in the eye of those considering attendance, in the eye of the parents and in the eye of the media.

For years, Penn State has prided themselves on being of high moral regard. When mentioning the name no matter how often their team may have spanked yours, there is an air of responsibility, sense of respect for the game and the revival of the dying culture of what college football is supposed to represent.

Looking back on all that took place within the confines of the school’s walls sheds light on an even more important culture that has been groomed to indefinitely take over the integrity of college athletics.

The glorification of coaches sends everyone into a spiral of doubt even when there has been a valid sign of deception and deceit. This is not something that happened overnight, and it is not something that will diminish with time.

The idea has long existed that a coach, especially one of Paterno’s stature, reputation and accomplishments, should be primarily responsible for the successes that he brings upon the community he represents. However, when said coach brings disdain and shame upon this same community, his supporters are well geared, even though ill-equipped, to defend his role in the rising scandal to savor the opportunity of a spotless legacy.

Even though Penn State students undoubtedly understand that their uprising will not erase the memory of what Paterno is being accused of and fired for, this does not stop the rage coursing through their bodies. The reasoning is as simple as this: A man who just a few moments ago could do no wrong is being accused of enabling a serial pedophile in his conquests in child sexual exploitation.

Sounds bad, doesn’t it? That is because no matter how hard you try to cloak the truth with game statistics, probable hall of fame status and overall contributions to a famed academic and athletic institution, you still come up with the same thing. Paterno did what he was legally obligated to do and failed to do what is required of us as human beings.

A sense of morality was not visible in what he did not do. It's more troubling than anything is how long this dark, dirty secret trailed on in the minds of the men who were aware before any public attention was drawn to it. Still, none of the men previously informed were the ones to shine a light on these acts. It came out as a matter of chance and investigation.

Ask yourselves what would have happened had no one else come forward. How long would McQueary live with what he saw that day in the showers? How long would Paterno sit in the press box coaching an unknowing football team pretending to practice such a high standard of right and wrong? How long was former president Graham going to sit idle as nothing came of these monstrous claims?

How long was the wool going to be pulled over everyone’s eyes before they got sick of living with themselves?

This is something that we will never know. But, what we do know, from their mouths in grand jury testimony, is that they knew more than they were willing to relay.

As a result of it, the betrayal of these little boys and their families continued. The unwavering support is a sight to see. But, it is undeserved in the case of grown men who did not feel obligated to stop something so disgusting from happening in their own backyard.

Firing Paterno was the only thing to do. If you feel differently, ask yourself this: How would you have felt as a victim to see a man that allegedly enabled your rapist praised by thousands in one almighty last stand?

Don’t be fooled. The victims could be subjected to the same feelings if Mike McQueary is allowed to stand on the sidelines against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Penn State’s Board of Trustees has taken steps in the right direction, but their strides are far from over.