I was just about to start writing, when this came from ABC News:
Legendary coach Joe Paterno said today that he is “absolutely devastated” by the sex abuse scandal that has rocked the school and announced that he will retire at the end of this season.
Paterno’s retirement after 46 years is the latest casualty of the Penn State sex abuse scandal.
“I am absolutely devastated by the developments in this case,” Paterno, 84, said in a statement today. “I grieve for the children and their families, and I pray for their comfort and relief.”
“This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more,” he said.
Paterno, who set a record this year as the winningest coach in top level college football ever, said it has been his intention to “serve the best interests of this university and the young men who have been entrusted to my care.”
“That’s why I have decided to announce my retirement effective at the end of this season. At this moment the Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status. They have far more important matters to address. I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can,” Paterno said.
That ends the stellar career of the man who is… or at least was… the most loved, admired and respected person to ever live in Happy Valley. And while I join the Penn State community in its anger, outrage and sense of betrayal over the news that came out this week, my most overwhelming emotion is sadness. Deep, deep sadness. And, frankly, disappointment: not only in those who were involved in the disgusting Sandusky case, but in the reactions of some in the community.
The thing that bothers me most (in addition, of course, to the evil that Jerry Sandusky allegedly visited on his victims) is the immediate blood lust in its wake. By the way, I use the word “allegedly,” because as a newsroom veteran, I cannot bring myself to do otherwise until he has been tried and found guilty. And after reading the 23 pages of the Grand Jury presentment, I have little doubt as to the veracity of the charges. But I have read and heard comments from those who say that everyone from Tim Curley to Graham Spanier… and that includes Joe Paterno… should be “hanged.” And that’s just not right.
Leaving Curley and Schultz aside (and in my opinion, the charges against them are fully justified,) let’s look for a moment at JoePa. From all reports that have been made public, he did what he was supposed to do: reported the accusations against Sandusky to his boss, Tim Curley. Did he do more? We don’t know. Did he make an impassioned plea that something be done? We don’t know. Paterno did not witness the alleged assaults, so it would have been pretty difficult for him to make a police report. He and Sandusky are public figures. How, exactly, would he have gone public with what at the time were unsubstantiated, third-person allegations? Really, what should he have done? What could he have done?
Do you know that JoePa didn’t have conversations with others? He knew (or thought he knew) Sandusky very well. If such a horrible accusation is made against someone you’ve known and worked with for years, wouldn’t it give you pause? Is it so hard to accept that perhaps Joe Paterno couldn’t quite believe that his friend and colleague of so many years had such an evil and dark side?
Why are some so quick to believe that this man, revered by so many people, could coldly and cynically aid in a cover-up to the detriment of the boys allegedly victimized by Jerry Sandusky? That this man, to whom education came first, who personified character and imbued it in his players would really, through inaction, knowingly endanger these vulnerable young victims? Do you really believe that? I don’t.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a football fan. You know that I have less knowledge about the game than probably any other sentient North American male. But even I was proud of the Penn State Nittany Lions. And during my time as an employee of Penn State… and now… I answer Penn State! when someone says We Are… My wife, whose daughters are all Penn State graduates, just put new Penn State stickers on her car a few weeks ago, even though we now live in North Carolina.
I have always had a great deal of respect and admiration for Joe Paterno, and that respect and admiration is undiminished. It will remain so until I have a solid reason to change my mind. I do not extend that respect to Tim Curley or Gary Schultz, who actually could have done something. And it would be proper for Graham Spanier to accept responsibility and hand his resignation to the Board of Trustees immediately. It is only right that he should do so.
And Joe Paterno is doing the right thing by retiring at the end of this season. But I hate to see him end such a glorious career under such an ugly cloud. And I really think that those who have rushed to judge should take a deep breath, step back, and give it some thought. Sometimes it seems that those who shout the loudest about what they would have done and what should have been done are trying to convince others, and perhaps themselves, of their own moral superiority.
No matter where we may be now, those of us who have lived in Happy Valley and been, even peripherally, part of the Penn State community, carry that with us with pride, and we always will. We are hurt, angry and outraged. But no purpose is served — the victims will not be helped — through an outpouring of misdirected hatred and vitriol. Now, pull together, hold your head up, and show the world what being a Penn Stater is really about. Do not let this define you, or Penn State.
Now and forever, remember: We Are… Penn State.