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Sorry Joe, you can't come back from this

November 8, 2011 - Mitch Rupert
Really, Joe? You truly feel like you did enough? Or are you just trying to convince yourself that you did enough?

Well guess what, because of what you and the administration of Penn State failed to do, your legacy is being written right now in front of your eyes. Your legacy is no longer a glorious past of national prominence. Your legacy is no longer a library built on campus that bears the name of you and your wife. Your legacy is no longer one win, let alone more than 400.

This is your legacy. And it’s a legacy of lies, deceit and child endangerment.

Joe Paterno has long been protected by Penn State University. He’s a man who has about as much to do with Penn State’s won-loss record as I do. He’s no longer a coach, he’s a figurehead. He’s a living statue used to memorialize the way Penn State football used to be. Those in charge at Penn State have failed for the last 10 years to tell Joe that it’s time to go. They’ve been fearful of the public backlash of the Penn State community should Grandpa Paterno not be allowed to ride off into the sunset on his own terms. They wanted him carried off of the field “Rudy” style in one grandiose moment that tugs at the heart strings, making you feel all warm and fuzzy somewhere deep inside your soul.

Well guess what Penn State, now your hand has been forced. Your beloved coach whose teams haven’t had national significance other than a handful of seasons in my lifetime, has lost the privilege of riding off into the sunset to the tune of Roy Rogers’ “Happy Trails.”

For a program that has built its reputation on doing things the right way while preaching from its moral high ground, Penn State just far surpassed the transgressions of the 1980s SMU teams, or the Miami teams of the same era. We’re not talking about cheating to win football games, we’re talking about directly putting the children of the community in which you live in direct danger.

Let us not forget, former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel was fired because he lied to NCAA investigators about tattoos.

Tattoos!

That’s stealing a cookie from the cookie jar in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sexual assault charges blanketing a once-proud, and now ashamed, Happy Valley.

Paterno claims he did his due diligence when he reported up the administration hierarchy about the incident of alleged intercourse between Sandusky and a child in a locker room shower that was witnessed by a graduate assistant coach. Legally, he did. Morally, Paterno dropped the ball. For the face of Penn State University to dust off his hands after telling his superiors of the incident and say that’s good enough is far more damning to his legacy than 10 consecutive losing seasons could ever be.

“Somebody has to question about what I would consider the moral requirements for a human being that knows of sexual things that are taking place with a child,” State police commissioner Frank Noonan said in a press conference Monday. “I think you have the moral responsibility, anyone. Not whether you’re a football coach or a university preside or the guy sweeping the building. I think you have a moral responsibility to call us.”

Instead, Paterno and the administration at Penn State became more concerned with preserving its reputation of the moral leaders of big-time college football than protecting the well-being of the children in its, and other surrounding communities.

The charges being levied against Sandusky are absolutely heinous. But even more heinous are the actions of Paterno, former athletic director Tim Curley, university president Graham Spanier and senior vice president Gary Schultz. The cover-up in this situation is even worse than the crime because those in a role of leadership within the university exuded none. They allowed the possibility of more children being hurt. Keeping Sandusky out of the football facilities wasn’t enough to stop the reign of terror against children allegedly perpetrated by Sandusky, and people with the professional and life experience of those like Paterno, Spanier, Curley and Schultz should know that.

The bottom line is that numerous folks in a position of power had the ability and opportunity to do the one thing that needed to be done in this case - make a phone call to the police - and not one of them did. And because they were not part of the solution, they are part of the problem.

This story, which couldn’t even be conceived by the greatest of horror script writers, can only end in one way. The beloved Joe Paterno must go. And not at the end of the season, not at the end of the month and not at the end of the week.

Now.

Sorry, Joe. But your legacy of wins does not conceal your legacy of apathy when it comes to the safety of the children of your community.

And you and the administration should know as much from your decades-long perch on your moral high ground.

Mitch Rupert is a sports writer for the Sun-Gazette. He can be reached at 326-1551, ext. 3129, or by email at mrupert@sungazette.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Mitch_Rupert.

 
 

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