Should Penn State Coach Paterno Be Lynched?

by on July 20th, 2011
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COMMENTARY | A few weeks ago The Harrisburg Patriot News broke the story about the former defensive coordinator of Pennsylvania State University Jerry Sandusky. Over a period of 15 years he allegedly sexually molested eight or more boys.

In one instance, Sandusky was caught raping a 10-year-old boy in the Penn State locker room by an assistant coach. The assistant reported the rape to Joe Paterno. Paterno then reported the incident to Tim Curley, the Athletic Director. This was all he was legally required to do.

Today The Harrisburg Patriot has come out with an editorial calling for Paterno to step down. In a scathing editorial condemning Paterno for not fulfilling his moral obligation under the circumstances, it called on the school’s president to resign and for its legendary coach, Joe Paterno, to leave after the season.

The paper noted on November 8, “Neither Joe Paterno nor Graham Spanier called the police. Neither Joe Paterno nor Graham Spanier seem to have demonstrated any concern for the victim. They never tried to find him. They never tried to get him the emotional help he might need.” Other media sources have joined in on the attack and as we speak the New York Times has reported that Joe Paterno will indeed step down following this season.

It appears a witch hunt is brewing. Never is the thirst for blood as great as when the target of the hunt is someone of great stature who can be brought down.

What is being forgotten in this hysteria is all the good Paterno has done in a career that spans over 60 years. Forget his record number of wins, his undefeated teams, his national championships. Paterno is a legend not only because of those accomplishments, but because of his humanity.

In addition to his legacy as a coach, Paterno is highly regarded for his contributions to academic life at Penn State. After the announcement of his hiring in 1966, Paterno set out to conduct what he called a “Grand Experiment” in melding athletics and academics in the collegiate environment, an idea he took from Brown University, where he formerly coached. As a result, Penn State’s players consistently demonstrated above-average academic success compared to other Division I-A schools. According to the NCAA’s 2008 Graduation Rates Report, Penn State’s four-year Graduation Success Rate of 78 percent easily exceeds the 67 percent Division I-A average.

Paterno is also renowned for his charitable contributions to academics at Penn State. He and his wife Sue have contributed over $4 million towards various departments and colleges, including support of the Penn State All-Sports Museum, which opened in 2002, and the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center, which opened in 2003. After helping raise over $13.5 million in funds for the 1997 expansion of the Pattee Library, the University named the expansion Paterno Library in their honor.

In 2007, former player Franco Harris and his company R Super Foods honored Paterno for his contributions to Penn State by featuring his story and picture on boxes of Super Donuts and Super Buns in Central PA. A portion of the sales will be donated to an endowment fund for the university library that bears his name.

Paterno has done a great many good things, but now he has demonstrated one lapse of judgment and it appears the whole world is falling on his head. Yes, it is true that when he was informed of Sandusky’s molestation, he did not make any attempts to find the child involved and care for him; nor did he call the police. Looking at it from his point of view, I am sure he was shocked and conflicted. Sandusky had been his heir apparent. In a moment of shock, who of us have not faltered?

If Paterno is forced to step down because of this one mistake, then we are all in trouble in this society.

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