When interim Penn State head coach Tom Bradley was asked before the Nittany Lions faced Nebraska this weekend what he thought Joe Paterno would be doing for the game, Bradley said that he wouldn’t be surprised if the embattled former head coach showed up to watch.
With that in mind, will Penn State ever invite Joe Pa back to Beaver Stadium? And more importantly, should they?
At best, Paterno chose to essentially turn a blind eye towards a horrible crime when he failed to do more with information that was brought to him alleging former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was sexually assaulting children at the school’s football facility. At the very worst, he organized and facilitated a cover-up aimed at protecting his program, his legacy and his colleague.
Either way, it makes no sense for Penn State to embrace Paterno by bringing him back into the program.
If someone was hastily fired where you work—especially for something as serious as involvement in an alleged sexual assault—would they ever be invited back to say hello and hang out with old friends? Of course not.
What happened at Penn State is bigger than Joe Paterno, and it’s bigger than sports.
The alleged sexual assault of a child is a very serious and very real offense, and Penn State needs to treat it as such.
Welcoming Paterno back to Beaver Stadium with open arms, as the hero and icon that he was before this tragedy unfolded, would be a slap in the face to Sandusky’s alleged victims and their families.
Outside of Penn State football, this wouldn’t even be up for discussion.
The offender—in this case Paterno—would be banished from the workplace, and his or her return would warrant swift action from law enforcement.
Penn State made the right decision by firing Paterno, and they made an even better choice by placing wide receivers coach Mike McQueary on leave.
McQueary, who testified to a Grand Jury that he witnessed Sandusky raping a 10-year-old boy in the shower, is as responsible for this as anyone not named Sandusky.
However, if the PSU brass decides down the road that they should continue to honor Paterno as a legend and the face of the university, they will be making a terrible mistake.
Penn State needs to clean house and start from scratch immediately after the season.
Until they do, everyone involved will be guilty of downplaying an incident that supersedes anything Paterno ever accomplished on the football field during his remarkable career.