With 409 wins, Joe Paterno’s career will end with him having the most victories in Division I college football history. However his last “loss” is what people will remember the most.
After giving more than 61 years of his life to Penn State, the legendary coach will never again be seen patrolling the sidelines in his customary blue tie and sweater, to go along with his thick, dark glasses. An abrupt end to the career of the face of college football for decades has many people asking themselves the same question:
Did Joe Pa have to go?
For 46 seasons, Joe Paterno never broke a single NCAA rule, won two national championships, graduated a high number of his players and most of all, built a football team in the middle of Pennsylvania into one of the most historic programs in college football today.
So when Penn State’s board of trustees unanimously decided to fire Paterno on Wednesday night, effective immediately, the amount of anger that came out of Happy Valley in response to the decision should come as no surprise.
Students and Nittany Lions fans alike rioted in the streets in support of their coach, claiming the university was using him as a scapegoat for all the troubles brought on by former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. But is he really a scapegoat, or was Paterno actually at fault for not doing more when learning of what Sandusky was accused of doing to young boys back in 2002?
Based on their reaction, it seems like the folks in State College, Pa. believe Paterno did enough in reporting what he knew to the proper authorities and dismissing Sandusky from his coaching staff. However, most everybody else has a different opinion and believes the decision made by the university was the only one that could be made.
According to Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com, after learning of the incident in 2002 from then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary, “Paterno did nothing more than inform athletic director Tim Curley and university vice president Gary Schultz of the allegation. Paterno never personally called police.”
How can a man, a father with a son of his own, be informed of something like this and never once bother to call the police?
Schlabach continues in his article to say, Paterno’s son, Scott, said that, “his father never even asked Sandusky – his assistant coach for three decades and who was once considered his heir apparent – about the incident.”
This is the information that Penn State took into account when terminating Paterno. This is why it had to be done.
As Jemele Hill states in her article on ESPN.com, “Paterno told the grand jury that McQueary didn’t tell him the specifics of what he’d seen. But so what? The incident involved a defenseless child.”
She’s absolutely right. For a man who prides himself on doing things the right way, he couldn't have been more wrong in this situation.
Yet still, there are plenty of people out there who believe Paterno did enough. Take this blogger from CNNiReport, who is a self-proclaimed, proud Penn State alum. He claims the media is creating another victim. “Joe Paterno was only informed about the incident and immediately notified his superiors. He is the only one who followed protocol.”
Since when do you “follow protocol” when a young boy is allegedly being taken advantage of by a grown man?
The bottom line is that Penn State did what needed to be done. It’s sad that a legendary coach's career had to end like this. It’s sad that the victims aren’t getting more attention.
However, for a man who had more success than anybody on the football field, it’s sad that he will always be defined by his one failure.