Why Joe Paterno can’t be allowed to coach another game

Penn State president Graham Spanier with his boss Joe Paterno. (AP photo)

Here's Penn State president Graham Spanier, shown with his boss Joe Paterno. (AP photo)

Penn State felt the need to cancel Joe Paterno’s news conference Tuesday, but allowed him to conduct practice later that afternoon. On Saturday the Nittany Lions will play host to Nebraska. Paterno cannot be allowed to lead Penn State onto the field.

In all likelihood, the Nebraska game would have been the 84-year-old’s last home date as coach if Jerry Sandusky had remained a footnote in Penn State’s athletic annals, but whatever Paterno wanted is immaterial now. At issue is if a proud university wants to be remembered as a school that was handed a last chance to do something and finally did it, or as an institution that again chose to do next to nothing.

The New York Times reports that, in May 1999, Paterno told Sandusky he wouldn’t become Penn State’s head coach when the incumbent, meaning Paterno, retired. Could it have been mere coincidence that, in 1998, Penn State had investigated Sandusky for showering with an underage male? No charges were filed, but Sandusky announced in the summer of 1999 that he would retire as defensive coordinator — at the not-exactly-advanced age of 55.

Did Penn State know back then that such a man couldn’t continue to represent it and nudge him aside? If so, why didn’t it inform the proper authorities? If so, why did it continue to allow Sandusky to hold emeritus privileges on campus and to use team facilities? This is no trifling issue: It was, according to the grand jury’s presentment, in a Penn State locker room that Sandusky was allegedly seen having sex with a 10-year-old — in 2002.

This was the act allegedly witnessed by Mike McQueary, then a grad assistant and now Penn State’s recruiting coordinator. McQueary told Paterno what he’d seen, and Paterno told his superiors, and then nothing much happened for a very long time. He was barred from bringing children on campus, but he maintained an office and reports indicate he was in the team’s weight room as late as last week. According to his lawyer, Sandusky has known he was being investigated for three years before the indictment was handed down.

Think about that. Penn State has sought to act as if this all has been a bolt from the blue, but in 1998 the school should have had cause, if not exactly to know, then surely to wonder. And here we must also wonder if Paterno, faced with a choice between what was right and what was best for his legacy, didn’t take the path of least resistance.

For all the lack of ostentation in Paterno’s image — the ugly glasses and the khaki pants and the football cleats — this is a man who cares very much about how he’ll be remembered. He once famously said he planned to keep coaching because he didn’t want to leave the sport to the likes of rogue operators Jackie Sherrill and Barry Switzer, but the Penn State Story is infinitely more distressing than any $100 handshakes with recruits. Lots of schools cheat in the attempt to get players. The program that has portrayed itself as above it all might well have concealed a predator.

When first the charges against Sandusky surfaced — and here we stipulate that he’s innocent until proved guilty — the reaction was, “How could he have kept such a life hidden?” After further review, it defies credulity that he could have. Someone had to know something. Someone had to wonder why a grown man was showering with boys and traveling to bowl games with adolescents who weren’t his sons.

In 1977 Sandusky founded a charity called The Second Mile, named after a verse from the Gospel according to Mathew, to provide aid and comfort to troubled boys. In the second paragraph of the grand-jury presentment is this chilling sentence: “It was within The Second Mile program that Sandusky found his victims.”

As a player and a coach, Jerry Sandusky had been part of Penn State from 1963 through 1999. Someone had to know something, and surely the 1998 shower incident was enough to generate suspicion even among those who didn’t want to know. Joe Paterno has been at Penn State since 1950. If he knew nothing, it was only because he wanted to know nothing.

But that’s the thing about being a head coach: You’re paid to know everything. Joe Paterno had come to be a case study in ethics in modern athletics, and he’ll retire with the most victories of any FBS (formerly Division I-A) coach ever. But Paterno also emphasized that there’s more to his job than winning, and that’s why he needs to coach no more. If he knew, he needs to go. If he didn’t know, he should have.

By Mark Bradley

404 comments Add your comment

NorthwestDawg

November 8th, 2011
5:23 pm

Amen, Mark Bradley. Great piece on a sobering topic.

dean

November 8th, 2011
5:25 pm

Catch a 50 something year old in a shower, after hours, with a minor—>YOU’RE OUTTA HERE! No matter what.

dean

November 8th, 2011
5:26 pm

….and to add, “AND WE’LL BE CALLING THE COPS!”

Mark Bradley

November 8th, 2011
5:28 pm

Thanks, NorthwestDawg. And kudos for … well, you know.

boots

November 8th, 2011
5:29 pm

This is getting uglier the longer it goes on. They are all sick. Yes, even Joe. He should be drummed out of town and not honored in any way.

boots

November 8th, 2011
5:31 pm

Mark, I am left wondering if the reason Joe had so much power is because of what he knew PSU was covering up. And is it possible the QB coach / recruiting coordinator rose so quickly because of the same? I’m not looking for devils here – Lord knows, there are enough already – but they are legit questions.

myfriendmikey

November 8th, 2011
5:33 pm

If the allegations are true, he was not “having sex” with a 10-year-old. He was raping a 10-year-old.

Amazing

November 8th, 2011
5:36 pm

The all time record for wins will be tainted with this stuff. Unless somebody is currently close to the record, it will never be broken. Because 1) the days of coaches staying at schools forever is gone 2) parity will make it impossible for coaches to hoard the victories like they have in the past.

Get rid of Gonzalaz

November 8th, 2011
5:37 pm

If PSU did indeed cover up for this sick freak. They Deserve worse than what SMU got THE DEATH PENALITY!!!!!!!!

matt r

November 8th, 2011
5:38 pm

Great caption

collegeballfan

November 8th, 2011
5:38 pm

Hummon

November 8th, 2011
5:39 pm

“If he knew nothing, it was only because he wanted to know nothing.” Hear hear. I’ve worked in educational institutions all my life. The kind of things that are alleged to have gone on cannot escape notice so thoroughly. This whole things smells of deliberate obliviousness on the part of the PSU leadership.

2010 BCS CHAMPS

November 8th, 2011
5:40 pm

Can’t argue with that although Jay Bookman has, for some reason, brought Auburn and Oregon into his column. Gotta love idiot left wingers.

Luke is wrong!

November 8th, 2011
5:42 pm

and to think some initially wanted Penn State in the ACC…not now.

watsgindown

November 8th, 2011
5:42 pm

A sad tale of woe besets Coach Paterno. This may well be the end of his coaching. But if he goes he should be remembered for all the good he did for Pennsylvania State. Like the four million dollars he gave the University.

yearofthedawg

November 8th, 2011
5:43 pm

So let me get this straight: in your article you stipulate that Sandusky is innocent until proven guilty, but you also maintain that his boss should be fired right before the end of the last season of his 40+ year career because he should have known about the alleged infractions that have not been proven yet?

And lets throw in that the alleged act was reported to Paterno, who then reported the alleged act to his superiors as opposed to sitting on the information for the sake of winning football games.

I agree that this infraction is way more serious than $100 handshakes, and needs to be treated accordingly. But shouldn’t the “Superiors” you reference be the ones penalized here, and only after the allegations are proven to be true (If in fact they are)?

sports

November 8th, 2011
5:44 pm

If these allegations are true that this monster did this, everyone that had any hint of this should be terminated immediately. The very thought these kids were savagely attacked is revolting.

Amazing

November 8th, 2011
5:44 pm

I never cared about Paterno and could never for the life of me figure out why PSU put up with his mediocre results.

The 87 NC was a farce. Miami vastly outgained Penn State on the field, 445 yards to 162, with 22 first downs compared to the Nittany Lions’ 8. However, the Hurricanes were hampered by 7 turnovers, including 5 interceptions of the Heisman-winning Testaverde.

VeteranFromPennsylvania

November 8th, 2011
5:46 pm

Some of Paterno’s players have been in serious trouble in the past, but all those issues managed to get brushed under the rug (the 15 that busted into an apartment and smashed two peoples heads in with beer steins, etc.) The school (Erie Campus) violated the education act of 65 and 74 back around 87 (in writing federal courthouse Erie) but hired about a dozen law firms to make that go away so they could keep their Federal funding and Join the Big Ten later.
If you knew how some of the staff at PSU Erie have behaved, you wouldn’t wonder how this could happen. You would send your son or daughter somewhere else.
On a further note, if students can’t stop throwing garbage, ice, and urine at the home games, maybe PSU shouldn’t have anymore home games.
Based on what I have recently read, and already knew, I wouldn’t just throw PSU out of the Big Ten, I would throw them out of the NCAA—AND strip them of their Federal funding, along with their Land Grant.

Stress Management

November 8th, 2011
5:47 pm

Retire today Joe.

MatthewH

November 8th, 2011
5:47 pm

In the article in the Philadelphia paper, it was said that he brought boys to bowl games and they were put on the official list as “family members”. This seems to be a pretty big red flag right there. He even threatened to send a boy home from a bowl game if he didn’t comply. Sickening, just sickening.

joseph brando

November 8th, 2011
5:50 pm

Excellent article Mark. Thanks to another poster who pointed out the excellent caption that I missed.

sogadog

November 8th, 2011
5:52 pm

You are right Bradley, Paterno was the captain of the football program, one of the men he selected as an assistant raped a child within the football complex and a credible witness, who was a grad assistant and is now an assistant coach witnessed the crime. Paterno had an absolute and unquestionable legal and ethical duty to report the incident to law enforcement immediately and assist with their investigation. Even more importantly, he had an absolute moral duty to find out who the child was, make sure the child was properly cared for, and make sure Sandusky never had contact with a child through Penn State again. He should be fired this moment on the spot and told not to set foot on campus ever again.

notagrad

November 8th, 2011
6:00 pm

I think President Spanier also needs to go….it is incomprehensible how this could have been ignored for so long by so many people…..sad.

P_The_Ricker

November 8th, 2011
6:01 pm

Of course there are issues at Penn State. From the look of Spanier, I’d say he’s wearing the same tie his mom laid-out for him to wear when he was 5.

2010 BCS CHAMPS

November 8th, 2011
6:01 pm

Someone at the WA Post made a statement about how Penn St should end their football program. I tend to agree.

SusanH

November 8th, 2011
6:02 pm

As a victim of childhood sexual abuse, I just ask one thing. Before you express any opinion about this article read the grand jury report. http://www.attorneygeneral.gov/uploadedFiles/Press/Sandusky-Grand-Jury-Presentment.pdf. I realize that everyone is to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, but if you can read this and then still say that any person at Penn State that knew and did not report it to the police themselves or make sure that someone had, should not be fired immediately, then you really don’t understand what being sexually abused as a child does to a person for the rest of their life.

Mark (another one)

November 8th, 2011
6:04 pm

Paterno knew what was going on and didn’t call the police. Telling his bosses was the wrong approach. What if his bosses were alreay in on it, or took no action? If Paterno had called the police, no one whould have thought less of Paterno. He would have been viewed as a hero. Allowing the crime to be covered up is cowardice.

Crimes against children carry a special responsibility as the victims can’t protect themselves. Adults have to step up. In many situations, adults charged with supervising children are required reporters meaning that if they suspect abuse they must engage law enforcement. This situaiton is worse than poor judgement. Paterno allowed children (plural) to be raped by a man known as a child predator. It is his own words that damn him.

tigerbalm

November 8th, 2011
6:08 pm

I love to arm chair detectives and lawyers that come in here. And a few idiots that actually think Paterno was the rapist. Keep up the good work morons.

Pedo In A Speedo

November 8th, 2011
6:10 pm

Sandusky is lower than dogcrap on the bottom of my shoe. This is truly an embarassment for Penn State and McQueary (you couldn’t make a better fitting name up) should be jailed for not reporting the rape of a 10 year-old boy.

uhhhhwhat?

November 8th, 2011
6:12 pm

@yearofthedawg Well, let’s see. Unless you think Mike Mcqueary is lying (and a detailed and vivid grand jury report makes that impossible in my book), no fewer than five adults knew that Sandusky raped a 10 year old boy in a locker room shower. And none of them did a single thing to ensure he was punished. Everything else is a sideshow.

duronimo

November 8th, 2011
6:14 pm

Good piece. This renders Penn State football and Paterno’s achievements irrelevant. This predator could have been stopped. Instead he was enabled and empowered and provided a venue for access to God knows how many victims. In cases like this, the moral choice trumps legal considerations. Loyalty is a virtue but not at the expense of a single child.

Melissa DiSanto

November 8th, 2011
6:14 pm

I couldn’t have said it better. Excellent piece.

Pedo In A Speedo

November 8th, 2011
6:15 pm

Oh yeah, Spanier should be fired. He didn’t act at all. He ignored it.
They all acted as if it were 35 year-old girl in there with Sandusky. We are talking about
a 10 year-old boy. And up to 9 young victims. Sick.

ccwwwww

November 8th, 2011
6:16 pm

They are all guilty and stupid!!!!!!!!!!!1

1, The grad asst ex qb who witness him naked in a shower with a young boy in 2002, did he STOP IT shout at him and kick his a$$ no he quietly walked away upset and not call the police but reported it to Joepa who is moron number 2. Did jopa call the police or beat his asst coachs a$$ for molesting young boys no who reported it to the Ad who is moron number 3 no police call and only reported it to the Finance dean who you guessed it did not call police and swept it under the rug.

They all need to go to jail for letting this monster off the hook for 10 more years so he could keep on molesting children!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bob

November 8th, 2011
6:18 pm

There is a reason for mandatory retirement…senility and lack of good judgement.

invhand

November 8th, 2011
6:21 pm

I have more than a few misgivings about the rush to judgment. There is an awful lot we do not know at this point and it seems as though no one wants to wait for facts – suppose they interfere with our rage?
Misgiving #1: Suppose Joe Paterno is concerned about his legacy and not a fool. Clearly the right thing to do is to pursue Sandusky aggressively and distance himself from Sandusky publicly. That protects JoPa’s legacy. A tepid response certainly does not – look at the comments here and elsewhere. There will be books written about this, and if Paterno comes out looking as he does now no one is going to remember the 46 years of coaching, they are going to remember the scandal.
Misgiving #2: Suppose the information Paterno had was weak and uncertain. Suppose he was told an investigation was in progress and action by him would compromise the investigation. Even if this was untrue, he would have been likely to believe it. Criminal justice is not his field.
Misgiving #3: There is a reason pedophilia is difficult to prove. It doesn’t leave a lot of physical evidence. The witnesses are frequently not reliable. The victims have parents who do not want forty reporters camped out on their front lawn pursuing their child.

We just do not know. If some of what is currently reported is true, if Paterno maintained a relationship with Sandusky after the allegations, if he came and went from the athletic facilities there, if Paterno made no follow-up inquiries, then he is done.

But maybe he cut Sandusky dead. Maybe he did follow up and was told a) the matter was resolved or b) there had been a terrible mistake made and Sandusky was actually innocent or c) they suspected Sandusky was guilty but lacked evidence; he was being observed and no one should put him on guard or … or… that’s just it. There may be a lot we do not know and can’t guess.

I have been a civilian bystander in at least 5 cases of child abuse, two were cases of sexual abuse. In 2 of the cases I did not understand what was going on until long afterwards. I had suspicions something was not right but never guessed the truth until someone with more information told me. In the third case (a child molested by a teen) the mother refused to call the police. By the time I heard my next door neighbor start beating her kids (not spanking, beating) I knew to call the police. They did absolutely nothing except reveal my identity to my neighbor. In the fifth case, the mother was already a known abuser and under court supervision. The courts chose to leave the children with her. I called the police and they told me there was nothing further to be done, it was “an ongoing investigation.”

Tony

November 8th, 2011
6:21 pm

The writer has it wrong. Sandusky was not barred from campus after the 2002 incident. He was told not to bring children onto the campus. He himself had an office and was in the school directory right up until this scandal broke. However, he is said to have violated that order to not bring kids on campus in 2007 when he brought a child to a PSU practice.

Worm

November 8th, 2011
6:23 pm

Sad, Sad, Sad…Bowden-Too Long, Woody Hayes-Punches Clemson player, and now this…And Howard Schnellenberger is still smoking his pipe!

"Chef" Tim Dix

November 8th, 2011
6:23 pm

Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio our nation turns…

Brownie

November 8th, 2011
6:23 pm

Very disturbing on so many levels – and tons of blame to be shared by many. Getting past the obligatory “alledged incidents” disclaimer, let’s make some reasonable assumptions:

- Sandusky did it, and had been doing it for many years, and others likely knew or had an inkling of it
- His not being promised the HC job when Paterno retired (or likely was carried off the field in a coffin) was due to Penn State’s belief in his misbehavior

First off, the grad assistant who walked in on Sandusky sodomizing a 10 yr old left the room and talked with his family first and THEN called JoePa. Are you kidding? What reasonably moral person wouldn’t run up to Sandusky, pull him away from the boy, and then kick him as hard as possible in the area that would prevent him from ever repeating that despicable act???

Second, JoePa apparently reported the incident to the AD, but not with specifics??? Was that because the grad ass’t didn’t give him details of the attack? Or did JoePa intentionally leave those facts out to protect Sandusky, hoping it all would quietly go away? Or was he just honestly too senile to even know what was going on?

Let’s face it, the grad assistant is not taking nearly enough flak here – he’s still working for JoePa at Penn State, but has to go NOW!

Here’s who has to go at Penn State…………EVERYONE.

They cancelled a press conference today. The real reason I believe is that they know that JoePa is just not capable of handling these types of questions at his advanced age and diminished mental capacity – it would only get much worse for the school. They have no choice but to force his immediate retirement – many people wish he could coach out the year to walk away with his dignity….he lost all of that about 10 years ago. He not only covered up a horrendous crime then, he’s been covering it up every day since!

Very sad ending to a distinguished career. Most people only remember Woody Hays for throwing a punch at Charlie Baumann, not his career and all he did for so many years.

Worm

November 8th, 2011
6:24 pm

Remember when the Tech swim team used to visit the President’s house?

doc

November 8th, 2011
6:28 pm

again,for many years in many locales something even worse happened in the catholic church and folks didnt sound out enough about that at all certainly not with the rhetoric printed here. arch bishop and pope got less scrutiny than joe pa has and it is proven they were aware and let monster priests continue in the catholic church. let the evidence come up before making stories up which is what most of this is conjecture. it took three years of investigation by trained authorities and we all should feel joe pa should have known all along?

yes, joe pa stayed too long but it was at the wealth of the penn state program that got noticed each saturday nationwide as joe chased a ghost. let spanier walk before joe pa. it is too easy to be betrayed in life or not know some of what even your closest of loved ones have done until it is too late. joe pa did right by moving the investigation to people he trusted and they blew it and were incompetent but he shouldnt take the punishment for that, only spanier their boss should go right now.

perk

November 8th, 2011
6:29 pm

Mark: great article – how could Paterno not know after 1998? has to be more situations prior. the sad part is how many more children were victims. Sandusky should be elminated. . . . . always have held Joe Pa in high esteem. He has to go. this is the biggest college scandal in history.

Hummon

November 8th, 2011
6:31 pm

The grad assistant case is interesting. I heard him getting accused of cowardice this afternoon by a certain local sports talk host. It sure looks like cowardice to me, but the the sports talk guy took it a step further by boasting about what HE would have done. The sad truth is that none of us know what we would have done. The thought process isn’t difficult to imagine. You see a horrible crime being committed, you know what you ought to do, but the combined weight of the authority of the figure you’d be accusing and the institution you’d be challenging and the thought of your career and the worry that you wouldn’t be able to prove your accusation makes you hesitate. We hope to God we’d be brave and decent enough not to hesitate, for the sake of the victim, but we’d never know until we were there whether we’d be cowards or not. That’s part of the scariness of it. That’s why these laws that require reporting of abuse are such a good thing. They take contemplating the consequences out of the equation. All the matters is the welfare of the victim.

The Nature Boy

November 8th, 2011
6:33 pm

Gosh..that Sandusky guy sounds like a real “weirdo..”..and Joe Pa is blind and probably is getting dementia…..clean house Penn State…I’d do it before the sun rises tomorrow….EVERYBODY knew Sandusky was a weirdo….it aint rocket science…..

Old School

November 8th, 2011
6:39 pm

Mark, I heard Coach Paterno has stepped down. Offensive Coordinator Chris Smith-Ellis is the new Penn State head coach. Heard anything?

notagrad

November 8th, 2011
6:40 pm

I know adults who are hesitant to intervene if they see a child being reprimanded in public (like for a temper tantrum in a grocery store). But not to intervene when you see a young boy being RAPED in a shower? Come on…..the grad asst should have intervened then to protect the boy and then called the police. Enough said…..enough excuses.

LakeDawg

November 8th, 2011
6:44 pm

Joe should have called 911, not the AD.

LakeDawg

November 8th, 2011
6:45 pm

BTW Mark. Fine article.