Vince Dooley on Joe Paterno: ‘It’s an unfortunate situation’

Joe Paterno on the day he announced his intention to resign. (AP photo)

Joe Paterno on the day he announced his intention to resign at season's end. (AP photo)

Vince Dooley has known Joe Paterno for nearly 50 years. “We’re friends,” Dooley said. “Not close friends, but we started out together [Dooley became Georgia's head coach in 1964; Paterno took over at Penn State in 1966] and we coached in a college all-star game in Atlanta, and we went on a lot of Nike trips together. We got to know him and his wife Sue very well.”

Dooley spoke Wednesday morning, moments after Paterno announced his intention to retire at season’s end. And the man who retired from coaching in 1988 at 56 said this of the man who kept going until age 84: “It probably was time for him to retire.”

Dooley won one national championship at Georgia. On New Year’s Day 1983, his Bulldogs were denied another title by Paterno and Penn State in the Sugar Bowl. A defense coordinated by Jerry Sandusky held Heisman winner Herschel Walker to 103 yards rushing and lifted the Nittany Lions to a 27-23 victory and their first championship. It was a breakthrough moment in Paterno’s career, a career that would see him win more games than any major collegiate coach.

And now this: A coach whose slogan was “Success With Honor” became a national flashpoint after Sandusky was arrested on charges of child sexual abuse. Said Dooley: “Two or three games before he’s going out, this comes up … It’s an unfortunate situation.”

It is. It might well be the saddest story in the history of collegiate sports. Said Dooley: “Paterno did report [an eyewitness account of Sandusky, then retired as a coach, having sex with a boy on Penn State property] it to the AD. From a legal standpoint, they’ve said they’re not going to prosecute or indict [Paterno] or whatever. But as people began to think about it, they felt he should have pushed [the investigation of Sandusky] more.”

Then: “I’m sure he wishes he had pushed it more … It was obviously a mistake in judgment.”

Sure enough, Paterno said in the statement announcing his plan to retire: “With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”

Dooley: “I’m sure he was shocked [by the eyewitness account]. Maybe [Paterno] thought it was an incident and hoped it would go away, but the more you think about it, you think it probably wasn’t a one-time incident … The guy was sick.”

Penn State hasn’t yet said whether it will accede to Paterno’s desire to coach through the end of this season, a season that could yield a Big Ten championship and a Rose Bowl berth. Taking the longer view, Dooley said he doesn’t believe the storm over Sandusky will cheapen a Paterno legacy that once seemed pristine.

“In long run, I don’t think it’s going to affect him. It will be talked about and written about and people will second-guess him, but there has been too much strength over the long haul. Time will pass.”

Dooley on Paterno himself: “I’ve always thought of him as an upright, honest person. I still think that of him.”

And here we come to a thorny question: Should one failure of conscience or wisdom override a half-century of good work? Will enough time pass that the Sandusky case won’t be mentioned in the second sentence of Paterno’s biography? Will anyone ever view this demonstrably great coach in quite the same way?

Dooley believes they might. I’d disagree. (I’m of the opinion that Paterno shouldn’t be allowed to coach another game.) But I yield to Dooley in that I’ve never been a coach or an administrator at the highest level of collegiate sports, and he has. And when I mentioned that Penn State football had often been held up as the model football program, Dooley corrected me.

“There is no perfect program,” he said. “There never will be.”

By Mark Bradley

207 comments Add your comment

Richt`s Hammer

November 9th, 2011
12:08 pm

An unfortunate situation?

Maybe if Joe had been subjected to what those young men went through he would view it differently.

By the way Auburn 50 Dawgs 3.

SAL

November 9th, 2011
12:08 pm

Am I first???? Any chance CMR will go to Penn State??

Lowcountry Bulldawg

November 9th, 2011
12:14 pm

O I was close!

Lowcountry Bulldawg

November 9th, 2011
12:14 pm

Well if a 6 minute delay for 3rd could be considered close….

Mark Bradley

November 9th, 2011
12:15 pm

You were, Lowcountry Bulldawg.

Stress Management

November 9th, 2011
12:16 pm

Child Safety should always come first.

Dean

November 9th, 2011
12:17 pm

Good article and good to hear from Dooley on the matter. Hey how about Auburn 50, Dawgs 51!

Mike Lum

November 9th, 2011
12:18 pm

Hard to believe Dooley was 56 when he retired. Is that correct? No wonder coaches won’t come close to Paterno’s record.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

November 9th, 2011
12:19 pm

Thanks Mark,

In those interviews do you really sense that the person being interviewed is always being sincere or giving you the answer they feel is the safest one? I know that is difficult to answer but I think we all would envision Dooley never publicly sharing his disgust with the situation and his horror that Paterno did nothing.

Gary

November 9th, 2011
12:21 pm

It’s times like thises I’m proud Mark Richt is our head coach. Whatever criticism I may read that he is not aggressive enough in winning championships, I know he is a winner where it counts, molding young men to be good men. Sure I would like more SEC and BCS championships, but I wouldn’t trade places with Penn State for all the money in the world.

j.d.

November 9th, 2011
12:21 pm

Why is a football college held to a higher standard than the Catholic Church?

Herschel Talker

November 9th, 2011
12:22 pm

MB:

“It probably was time for him to retire.”

Um…no. It was time for him to retire 10 years ago. I like your piece yesterday on him not being allowed to coach another game. Well written. The fact those doofuses at Penn State are allowing him to coach the rest of the year is shameful, IMO.

HT

Mark Bradley

November 9th, 2011
12:24 pm

I’ve never known Coach Dooley not to be forthright.

Uh, Gary...

November 9th, 2011
12:24 pm

…why do you think CMR is a winner where it counts and Joe PA is not? Joe Pa did not commit the acts – and CMR has been quite lenient on many of the athletes he has “loved”, turning his head while infractions were committed – quite the hypocrit YOU are, Gary…

Had enough

November 9th, 2011
12:25 pm

The man should not be coaching!He should stop now!Vince Dooley should understand that !This happened on Joe’s watch!This is horrible!Kids where sexual molested ! Jerry Sandusky was at the athletic complex last week!Get the picture !

ARdawg

November 9th, 2011
12:31 pm

Mark

That is some very unimpressive statements from Coach Dooley. Not much mention of the victims here. The children, not Joe Pa

observor

November 9th, 2011
12:33 pm

Dooley shows he doesn’t get it either. He was basically trying to excuse Paterno’s inaction by saying he might of thought it was just a one time incident. Who cares if he may of thought it was a one time incident. A one time incident of raping a young boy is more then enough to go to the authorities instead of hoping it went away.

ARdawg

November 9th, 2011
12:35 pm

Mark

You could have asked Dooley what he would have did in that circumstance. Notify an administator or the cops?

ARdawg

November 9th, 2011
12:36 pm

observor

November 9th, 2011
12:33 pm

Dooley shows he doesn’t get it either. He was basically trying to excuse Paterno’s inaction by saying he might of thought it was just a one time incident. Who cares if he may of thought it was a one time incident. A one time incident of raping a young boy is more then enough to go to the authorities instead of hoping it went away.

+1

Coach Ralph Fontaine

November 9th, 2011
12:38 pm

A life lesson I tell my players, never get caught with a dead girl or a live boy and we will get to the semi’s

BigDawg

November 9th, 2011
12:41 pm

Joe needs to go NOW! What a travesty beyond belief!! How would he feel if his son was subjected to such sodomizing?

Sigh

November 9th, 2011
12:43 pm

“might of thought” “what he would have did” “That is some very unimpressive”

I weep for the present.

WinderDawg

November 9th, 2011
12:44 pm

We all get it…it is a bad situation! We are not going to agree if he did the correct thing or not…we were not there. He did inform someone. I am sure he thought it would be handled in the correct manner.

DC

November 9th, 2011
12:47 pm

Like I said Mark..dont believe everything NY Times states…and I was correct..as for the article..

I think with time this will blow off of Paterno and back on to the person who actually DID the crime..easy as the outsider to point the finger at Paterno…

Mark (another one)

November 9th, 2011
12:52 pm

The criminal is Sandusky. JoePa’s error was not following through with the police, and that is a failure of judgement. I believe JoePa should resign but I also believe his conscious will haunt him for his inaction.

I hope Sandusky, Curly and Schultz rot in hell.

KOOL

November 9th, 2011
12:53 pm

Actually, UGA did not lose to Penn State on New Year’s Day 1983. We lost to them on January 2, 1983.

Had enough

November 9th, 2011
12:55 pm

Joe should not be coaching .He should get out now .

zebra

November 9th, 2011
1:00 pm

“Uh, Gary…

November 9th, 2011
12:24 pm

…why do you think CMR is a winner where it counts and Joe PA is not? Joe Pa did not commit the acts – and CMR has been quite lenient on many of the athletes he has “loved”, turning his head while infractions were committed”

Wouldn’t happen to have any links of Richt’s head being turned would you guy? Thought not. Nothing to see here, just another trash and run Tech fan.

wreckbuzz

November 9th, 2011
1:00 pm

The answer to Mark Bradley’s question: Should one failure of conscience or wisdom override a half-century of good work? The answer is yes, if that failure of conscience resulted in the sexual molestation of a single child because of inaction, much less the dozens that were reportedly assaulted in the years since the first allegation was levied against Sandusky in 1998.

There is not a leg to stand on for Paterno or any of the other Penn State officials who were in the know.

Say It Aint So

November 9th, 2011
1:01 pm

When will these coaches understand that the are paid to know whats going on with their staff and players. First Joe P should have confronted his longtime friend and told him whether true or not he would have to call the authorities after which he should have notified administrators. What people fail to realize is hold bold this sleeze was to do this a a major college locker room with all the people around the facilities on a daily basis.

Mark Bradley

November 9th, 2011
1:02 pm

Actually, KOOL, the game was played on New Year’s night. You can check the Sugar Bowl official site.

cptzzggyy

November 9th, 2011
1:02 pm

What, exactly, might be the saddest story? Sandusky actions or Paterno’s inaction?

Say It Aint So

November 9th, 2011
1:03 pm

Mark, I truely doubt if Coach can remember that far back. He should be haunted by the thoughts of what happened to those kids.

The hot seat....

November 9th, 2011
1:04 pm

Let’s get to the crux of the issue – MANY adult men were made aware that a coach was seen raping a 10 year old boy on campus. And these many men did absolutely nothing, leaving the sexual predator free to continue abusing.

Doug

November 9th, 2011
1:05 pm

wow dooley is a jackass. unfortunate? unlucky? no it’s a disgraceful and repulsive situation. unfortunate is when your qb breaks his leg or tears his acl. not when your def coord rapes and molestes little boys.

wreckbuzz

November 9th, 2011
1:07 pm

No one should grieve for Paterno’s lost legacy. He is 84 and will not be with us much longer. But those kids have decades ahead of them to relive the heinous acts that Sandusky did to them. That’s who we should grieve and who we should do right by as a society with our outrage.

Had enough

November 9th, 2011
1:07 pm

Hot seat is right .No one did anything.

Hankie Aron

November 9th, 2011
1:08 pm

Mark,
Makes sense now that JoePa wasn’t so much in the celebratory mood at the press conference after his 409th victory. He was kind of contrite and sort of made light of the accomplishment. We now know why, he knew the storm was coming.

The Hankie

Hankie Aron

November 9th, 2011
1:09 pm

I feel like HT when putting my name at the bottom. I better stop that.

Hankie Aron

November 9th, 2011
1:10 pm

Second that Doug and wreckbuzz

Skokie Dog

November 9th, 2011
1:17 pm

MB: Your prose refers to “sexual abuse of adolescents.” Since when are most ten-year old boys adolescents? The charges refer to incidents of child rape. Let’s not overlook the age of the victims here, assuming that the charges are correct.

Dr. Phil

November 9th, 2011
1:18 pm

This matter will drag out for a long time, and Paterno will be right in the middle of the media firestorm. Paterno essentially put the whole matter on the graduate assistant, i.e.he told me he saw this. The primary concern of the university administrators, and Paterno included, was not to do anything to reflect negatively on the football program. This response was no different than that of other self serving coaches and administrators.

ole dawg

November 9th, 2011
1:24 pm

Uh Doug… Dooley was referring to unfortunate for Coach Paterno not unfortunate for the children involved.

I don’t know all the facts of the situstion yet, but then neither do any of you (including the wonderful author of this article.)

I am with Matt Millen on this one.

Had enough

November 9th, 2011
1:26 pm

Can some person out their tell me why Jo pa should coach the rest of the season.Does this help those who where victims or their families.He should fall on a sword.

Red Stick

November 9th, 2011
1:31 pm

I think if Paterno is allowed to coach the rest of the season there will be a firestorm of criticism. I would he does not coach another game and he shouldn’t.

I believe there is more to this sick situation and it will come out.

Alot of people in Happy Valley are accountable and should be fired.

robdawg08

November 9th, 2011
1:32 pm

People at Penn State have to be held accountable. Paterno included. “He dropped the ball”. Hell, this isn’t football. This is an employee at Penn State (a coach) raping several under age boys on the campus premises and nothing was done about it after other Penn State officials KNEW about it. They all should be fined and jailed from the President down to the McQueary coach that witnessed it. You don’t turn a blind eye to such a heinous crime. Everything is not okay. All of these Penn State officials that didn’t report this to police might have as well held the boys down while Sandusky raped them…

Rbee

November 9th, 2011
1:34 pm

Honestly, I really have to shake my head all of you who say Joe Paterno should not be allowed to coach, should have done more and so on. I say that because I would bet lots of money, and make lots on those bets, that not any of you would have done anything except what he did…report it to his superior. He did not witness the act and it was hearsay. And btw, Sandusky hadn’t been a coach for almost four years, so to whoever said it happened on his watch, get the facts, which most all of you have ignored.

Bhorsoft

November 9th, 2011
1:34 pm

I think at the time Joe Pa did the right thing. Most places require you to report similar incidents to your boss, not to the police. He reported the incident to his boss, thinking they would do the right thing. They didn’t and have lost their jobs. I suspect that if I were the head coach of a multi-million dollar Div-1 football program I would have thought I had done the right thing and forgotten about it with all the other demands of the job coming down on me. I’m seeing reports where Sandusky was banned from U of Pa facilities shortly after the report. If true, then Paterno must have felt things were coming along. It really wasn’t his job to ensure that a criminal investigation was started or proceeding. The folks who should be in hot water are Paterno’s bosses at the time. Although an asterisk on his legacy, I don’t think it should be tainted by this incident.

The hot seat....

November 9th, 2011
1:36 pm

Red Stick
November 9th, 2011
1:31 pm

I agree that Paterno should not coach another game at Penn State. The problem is this: whild I believe most Americans are in agreement with this position, those in Happy Valley and closely tied to the school are ready for this love affair send off. Yeechh.

Gdawg

November 9th, 2011
1:39 pm

Richt’s hammer, put down the crackpipe.