One of the most important stories in college sports that has been ongoing for the last few months is the child sex scandal at Penn State. I had not intended to post my thoughts on this story until the full details were available. However, with the passing of Coach Joe Paterno this past weekend, I feel I need to offer some thoughts on this extremely unfortunate and unpleasant incident.
I grew up in Pennsylvania and graduated from High School in 1966, the year that Joe Pa became the head coach at Penn State. Before finally deciding on Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, I briefly did consider attending Penn State. Many of my fellow graduates did go there. Back in those days, Penn State did not have the Academic Reputation that it holds now. In fact, it was considered a fall back for those who could not get into a good school. One of the main reasons Penn State’s Academic Reputation has greatly improved since then is the efforts of Coach Paterno. When the scandal involving the former long-time defensive coordinator under Coach Paterno first broke, there was a lot of discussion in the media, and most especially ESPN, about the fact that Coach Paterno had a lot of “power” at the University and in the community. However, it is my contention that the media analysts confused moral power with, for the lack of a better word, political power. In listening to comments made by current and former students at the University, I feel that the authority that Coach Paterno had was not in the arena of decision, but rather Couch Paterno was able to influence those with the real political power because of the high esteem he had with students and residents of the state.
In 2004, I believe it was, there was an attempt to force Coach Paterno to retire. This attempt was spearheaded by the members of the administration at the time, who are now under indictment for perjury. As those of us who have followed the growth of college football over the last few decades know, college football is all about the money. The more you win, the more money you make. Coach Paterno has always stressed, imho, education and personal development as a human being over wins and losses. I feel that the administrators at the time wanted the football program to become more of a money machine then it already was, and that is why they wanted Coach Paterno out.
However, due to the high regard that the Penn State community past and present had for Joe Pa, the efforts to oust him were thwarted. It is my feeling that these administrators used the sex scandal as a weapon to get Coach Paterno out of the way. Although it will never stand up in any court of law, loosing his position as head football coach killed Joe Paterno. Being shunted aside by the University that he loved and gave his life to broke his heart. I hope the people responsible for his ouster are happy.