Instead of being remembered for all of the things he’s done during his 45 years as a coach for Penn State, Joe Paterno will now be remembered for what he didn’t do.
Last night, the Penn State Board of Trustees announced that Joe Paterno was fired, trumping an earlier statement from the coach that said he would be retiring at season’s end. This move seemingly blindsided Paterno and the Penn State student body, which took to the streets in protest, but it was the right move to make for the university.
Over the past few days, Penn State has sat idle as their faculty and reputation became the spotlight of scandal. With all of the media looking for answers, the university kept quiet—until they unexpectedly announced that school president Graham Spanier and Joe Paterno had been fired, effective immediately.
It was the first time since these allegations broke that Penn State showed that the victims mattered more than the face of their football program. And it was exactly what they needed to do because, for a while there, it seemed like this whole coverup was to keep their image spotless. Even if that was the initial intention of those involved, it is clear that that is no longer the case.
Penn State has been embarrassed by this scandal beyond belief. The repercussions of one man’s actions and several people’s neglect will have significant effects on the way people view the university as a whole.
So even though Joe Paterno is not considered a target in this investigation, his involvement and ineffective handling of the situation was a clear indicator that he needed to go.
As more and more details emerge, it’s getting increasingly more difficult to believe that Paterno was oblivious to what Sandusky was really doing. So whether he chose to ignore the abuse or simply felt that it wasn’t happening, the fact remains that he was told something was going on and did practically nothing.
And as someone who has been motivating people for decades, Joe Paterno should know more than anyone else that doing the bare minimum never yields results. Yet, that seems to be precisely what he did after being informed about Sandusky sexually assaulting a young boy in the Nittany Lions locker room.
According to CNN, he even said, “With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.” Which is why the Penn State Board of Trustees made the right move in firing him. If they want to start moving forward, they need to stop acting as though the past events never happened. And that includes cutting ties with those who were involved in one way or another, no matter how difficult that may be.