Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Paterno, others who did too little should all be forced to resign

Paterno, others who did too little should all be forced to resign
By Bryan Burwell, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

ST. LOUIS - The adults who are deeply entwined in the Penn State scandal are lucky.

They are surrounded by grown-ups looking out for their best interests.

Legendary head football coach Joe Paterno is being carefully herded away from the media hordes who are roaming campus demanding to know what did he know and when did he know it. Attorneys are surrounding alleged pedophile and former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, harboring him from the outraged public that thinks he is the most despicable human being on the planet. And of course, there is plenty of circumstantial evidence mounting that for more than a decade, a lot of adults in Happy Valley have been far more interested in preserving images and institutions than in upholding the law.

What's pathetic is how none of these grown-ups invested nearly the same efforts to protect the eight children Sandusky is accused of abusing as they apparently have to cover their own rear ends.

If we're to believe what is detailed in the 23-page grand jury report, it's beyond disgusting what was allowed to happen for so long. There are no good guys in this story. The pages read like the worst nightmare you can imagine. I've been covering sports for nearly 40 years and can't recall a public scandal in college athletics as loathsome as this. Drugs? Sleazy agents? Free cars? Under-the-table money? Seedy boosters?

They all pale in comparison to the taint that has fallen on the Penn State football program. Sickening and despicable are some of the words that come to mind when trying to consider the charges that are contained in the grand jury report. There are other words I want to use, but this is a family newspaper, so I'm not allowed.

The details of the allegations from the grand jury are the kind that make the parent in me want to hurt somebody. As a parent, I have my own ideas about what should happen to a sexual predator. If Sandusky is guilty, I want Old Testament justice to be inflicted on him in the worst ways imaginable.

But if the details are true, a lot of people need to lose their jobs, not the least of them being the highly regarded legend himself, Paterno. "Success with honor" has been Paterno's mission statement in his 46 years as the head coach of the Nittany Lions. He built his football program on that core belief and lived up to that code almost every step of the way to his record 409 victories, five perfect seasons and two national championships.

Paterno is one of the two or three most honorable men I've ever covered in the vast culture of college athletics, and that's no easy thing to do. He did his job with honor and decency and integrity and without a hint of scandal until now. And it's because of those very standards that he helped create that he has no choice but to step aside now. He chose those words "success with honor" for a reason and proudly lived up to his code for a long time.

And it is because of those words that he has to go, because at the end of his time at Penn State, Paterno forgot his code, apparently choosing the preservation of his image and program over doing the right thing.

If everything in that report is true - or even half of it - I will not feel a hint of sorrow for Paterno if he is forced out of his job. When the allegations against Sandusky were brought to his attention in 2002 by a 28-year-old graduate assistant, who testified before the grand jury that he caught Sandusky naked in the shower in the football locker room sodomizing a 10-year-old boy, Paterno waited 24 hours before reporting the incident to director of athletics Tim Curley, who never reported it to the police.

By never doing more than reporting the alleged incident to his superiors, Paterno was covered legally. But once he realized that Curley was throwing the whole thing under a rug and Sandusky was still bringing young boys around the program, Paterno fell far short of his moral responsibilities.

Paterno should have confronted Curley and told him if he was too spineless to report Sandusky to the police, he was going to do it himself.

If the grand jury report is true, everyone in this story deserves whatever bad happens to them. Line them all up and hand them their walking papers. Scarlet letters for the entire lot. I also don't understand how the assistant coach who said he caught Sandusky, Mike McQueary, should get off easy in this either. He was 28, not 12, when he says he discovered Sandusky naked in the locker-room shower with a naked 10-year-old boy, apparently sexually abusing the boy.

So instead of cringing in disgust and quietly walking away, why didn't McQueary rush in, knock the crap out of Sandusky and immediately rescue the child?

Instead, he went home, called his father and then met with Paterno the next day. It took 48 hours from the time McQueary saw Sandusky until Paterno reported the incident to Curley. Paterno said McQueary told him he saw Sandusky "fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy."

In explaining why he didn't take the incident to the police when he realized nothing was being done by Curley, Paterno now says that there was not enough specifics told to him.


When I see the words "fondling or something of a sexual nature to a young boy" in a sentence, I think that's specific enough for me.

At least Curley and university vice president Gary Schultz had the good sense to step down as a result of their role in the cover-up.

Paterno and McQueary ought to be the next ones to go, but not before they both stand in front of a bank full of microphones and television cameras and take ownership of their culpability.

The university is trying to keep him away from a microphone now, no doubt to protect Penn State from lawsuits. The school is afraid he might say something that will make them liable. Too late for that. This grand jury report will be the blueprint for eight or nine civil suits.

But Paterno has a chance to go out the same way he came into Penn State, with his dignity intact, by stepping up to the microphones and in announcing his resignation, tell everyone that he could have and should have done more.

And then tell those young men he's sorry. That's the very least they deserve.

© Copyright (c) McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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