Last night, Joe Paterno was officially fired as head coach of Penn State's football team. It's truly crazy when you think that Joe-Pa was the head coach of the Nittany Lions for 45 years. Forty-five years. In an era where it seems the majority of colleges coaches last for about 5-10 years at a time, Paterno was the face of Penn State Football for 45 years. Not only has he been Penn State's head man for my entire life, but Paterno was coaching PSU when my dad was a kid. Unreal.
The whole Sandusky situation is incredibly unfortunate. While some may have had a different opinion of Joe, Paterno's name had carried a certain level of professionalism and class throughout his tenure at Penn State.
When the admininstration's decision regarding Paterno became public at last night's press conference, Paterno's image had taken an insurmountable hit. What stood out to me at the presser was the number of misguided and uninformed questions given by student reporters. The questions focused not on the victimized children, not on what Paterno was truthfully told by McQueary, and not even about Sandusky, but rather on questioning the decision to relieve Paterno of his duties as head coach.
The students acted as if Paterno was the victim in this situation - not the nine victims (so far) of sex abuse. They act as if Paterno was wrongfully accused of murder, and thus, fired as head coach. The heinous and inhumane crimes committed by Sandusky all occurred on Paterno's watch. The shower incident witnessed by current WR's Coach Mike McQueary, in which Jerry Sandusky allegedly raped a young boy, occurred in 2002. Sandusky not only had been allowed back on campus as recent as last week, but he was seen back at a Penn State practice with another young boy in 2007. For Joe Paterno to allow that to happen is entirely inexcusable.
McQueary has deservedly taken a lot of heat himself for the manner in which he handled the situation after witnessing Sandusky in the shower with a small boy. At the time, McQueary was a 28 year-old Grad Assistant who had his sights on working his way up the coaching ranks. While not everyone would have the same reaction, something had to be done to remove the child from the situation. Something. Anything.
One person witnessing the act may turn into a state of rage and physically attack Sandusky and remove the child from the situation. Another witness may be shocked speechless momentarily before verbally lashing out and Sandusky. In McQueary's case, he decided to wash his hands clean of the situation as much as he possibly could by going to his dad and then proceeding to relay what he saw to Coach Paterno.
While I'm not about to portray myself as the knight in shining armor who saved the day, I know for a fact that I would have done something that resulted in the child being removed from the situation. Whether it was physical force or an emphatic "What the @#$% are you doing?!" - I, and I hope most people would do the same, would make sure that the child was removed from Sandusky. McQueary is in the same boat as Paterno in that neither did enough to bring closure to this situation.
For people to say Paterno was wrongfully fired is absolutely ridiculous. Sandusky is a pedophile; he had been so for quite some time. With Sandusky being his right hand man, Paterno knew exactly what Sandusky was all about as a person. Being the head coach at the University for 45 years, Paterno built his name up to be almost a dictator. He had complete control of what remained in-house and what the public knew about the happenings within the football program.
We don't know what Joe-Pa wanted to be kept secret, and we know what Joe-Pa wanted us to know. Most perceived "Happy Valley" to be exactly what it sounds like - a sheltered, almost utopian campus where Paterno sat on his thrown an oversaw everything in Lion Country. By building his own power up to the level that he did, Paterno became a casualty of his own creation.