That is the one word to describe the situation. As a proud Penn State alumnus and the father of a Penn State student, I was saddened by the scandalous events that have unfolded over this past week. I know our hearts go out to the victims and their families. As much as I love Penn State, I think the Board of Trustees made the correct decision in dismissing Coach Paterno and President Graham Spanier.
Joe Paterno has been a beacon of integrity throughout his 46 years as head coach of Penn State. However, his alleged action – or more correctly, inaction – in the Jerry Sandusky scandal, is inexcusable.
Anyone who defends Paterno’s actions needs to ask themselves this question: If your child was allegedly abused, would you tolerate the fact that this abuse was not brought to the attention of the proper legal authorities?
Furthermore, would you tolerate that a person who was accused of such a heinous act was allowed to use school facilities with other children?
It is unacceptable to hide behind the notion that Paterno’s duty ended by reporting the incident to his “superiors.” People, who know Penn State, know that when Joe Paterno speaks, people listen.
From a practical standpoint, the dismissal of Paterno will tone down the feeding frenzy on the university by a ravenous press who love nothing more than to see the mighty fall. Paterno is unable to leave his house, let alone walk on a football field. It is hard to imagine the questions he would face from a self righteous press corps when he left Happy Valley.
The Board of Trustees recognized that the sooner Coach Paterno left, the sooner Penn State could get on with the business of rebuilding the institution.
The bigger picture is this: Penn State alumni, students, and fans, must accept the fact that something very terrible has happened at Penn State and those at the highest level of the university bear some responsibility. It is human nature for those of us concerned about Penn State and Joe Paterno to be hurt, defensive, and angry.
We really don’t want to believe this is happening. But the first step in the healing process is to accept what happened and acknowledge that there was a failure “to do the right thing” up and down the chain of command. The Board of Trustees had no choice other than to wipe the slate clean.
The process of rebuilding the institution’s good name will be daunting. People will not soon forget the scandalous events that allegedly took place at Penn State. However, “Penn State” is bigger than Joe Paterno or any other individual. Penn State is 80,000 students,145,000 alumni, dedicated professors, administrators, parents, and fans.
We are Penn State. Together, we can rebuild the university’s reputation, day by day, brick by brick. Out of adversity, there is always opportunity. This is the opportunity to make Penn State a better institution—one that truly lives up to its high standards.
A final word on Coach Paterno — he was my idol growing up. Win or lose, I always respected him because I thought he was a man of integrity and honor. For the most part, I still believe that. I don’t think this one incident, as egregious as it is, completely negates a lifetime of good deeds.
We all should recognize that human beings are complex. Sometimes, we are confronted with a set of circumstances and for whatever reason, we do the wrong thing. That is what it means to be human. There is good and bad in all of us—even Joe Paterno. There is only one word to describe the circumstances surrounding his exit from Penn State.