“Success with Honor.” “The Grand Experiment.” For as long as I can remember these two statements have been synonymous with the Penn State family and with many that follow college athletics closely. To those that are not familiar with these statements, Joe Paterno created these beliefs when he started coaching 46 years ago. His idea was that you could have a student athlete that succeeded both on and off the field, one of upstanding character, and one that met certain high academic standards. JoePa showed the college football world that this was possible over those 46 years, and we the Penn State Community believed every bit of it. For the better part of my life I have believed in these statements, I have believed that JoePa was above all things, and that JoePa was God-like. Joe has been looked on by the sporting community as the one person that has done things right. Heck, Penn State is one of TWO NCAA Division 1 programs (Stanford being the other) that has never, and I mean NEVER been investigated by the NCAA for major violations of the NCAA bylaws for college athletics. JoePa created that image by demanding excellence from his players on and off the field and preaching it to all that wear the Blue and White. I had tears in my eyes when JoePa passed Paul “Bear” Bryant on the win record. Same when he hit win #400 last season. I have always felt that JoePa is Penn State. However, with one short sighted decision, all that Joe built was gone.
This past weekend has been arguably the most trying time that the Penn State Community has ever had to deal with. I myself, a die-hard Penn Stater, am still struggling with the acceptance of the news that broke this past Friday evening about former coach Jerry Sandusky and then blew up on Saturday with the cover-up scandal. Today I find myself struggling to feel the way I used to about my Alma Matter. Today I find myself saddened by the actions of not only Jerry Sandusky, but also those in power at Penn State, those that failed to do the right thing. Today I question what else JoePa and company lied about and hid over the years. Today I question my loyalty to the University that I grew up loving, attended, and graduated from.
My heart goes out to the victims of this monster that was allowed to walk around free and clear for 10+ years. Those victims will live with memories that they will never be able to escape, no matter how hard they try. The fact that most, if not all, of the victims were “at risk kids” being helped by what truly is a fantastic organization, The Second Mile, makes it even harder to accept. These kids were sent by their parents to an organization that they believed would help mold their children into fine upstanding citizens. They were to be taught life lessons about what is right and what is wrong. And they were sent to one place that is SUPPOSED to be safe, a University setting. How are we, as parents, supposed to trust anyone if you can’t trust the staff at a major University? This may be the part that rubs people the wrong way, I know it does me.
I first found out about the investigation of Jerry Sandusky earlier this year through Penn State fan sites and forums. As quickly as the word broke that he was being investigated by a grand jury on allegations of sexual conduct with minors, the news was hushed. At that time, my initial reaction was to think that, “well this will be ugly, but it will blow over quickly.” Never in a million years did I expect that once the grand jury convened that several high ranking Penn State officials would be charged with perjury and failure to report a sex crime. Never did I expect that possibly the biggest cover-up in the history of college athletics would be unveiled, especially when it involved Penn State.
Because of this, I am left with so many questions about a place that I love, a place that I worship. Saturday night I wrote an email to the Board of Trustees demanding the resignation of President Grahm Spanier, Athletic Director Tim Curley, Vice President of Finance Charles Shultz, and Joe Paterno. These were the men that failed to do what needed to be done. Yes, Joe did what he legally needed to do by the letter of the law in reporting the allegations to his superior Tim Curley. But he could have done more and he should have done more. One thing to keep in mind is that we do not know what the GA told Paterno. There are differing theories on the description Joe was given and this is crucial to how we judge JoePa. If the description was merely “I think I saw Sandusky naked in the shower with a young boy” then it is hard to say JoePa did the wrong thing by merely reporting the matter to his superior, Tim Curley. Now if he was told the specifics outlined in the grand jury report then Joe deserves to be judged harshly. I can only hope that in the upcoming months more light will be shed onto what happened. Maybe Joe did pursue this and was shut out by his superiors or told it was taken care of? Is it likely? Especially knowing that JoePa runs the University, I don’t know. One thing I do know is that Joe was not protecting a “buddy” because he and Sandusky had not gotten along for years, and that is a known fact. I do not believe that Joe was part of the “cover-up” directly. I think Joe's failure was in not doing more than he did. Morally JoePa should have made sure the police showed up and investigated this incident immediately.
Ask any of my friends or family and they will tell you that I am a loyalist to the extreme. Yes, I wanted JoePa to retire about 10 years ago already and yes I hoped that this season was truly it for Joe (which as a side note I really think it was regardless of the current situation). Everything was set up for a great end of a career. His contract was up at the seasons end, he turns 85, he has the all-time win record for Division 1 football, PSU has a great chance at the first ever Big Ten Championship game and a great New Year’s Day Bowl Game. JoePa has done it all. But now? Now, that incredible career is tarnished with a stench that will never go away only because JoePa appears to have chosen to do the bare minimum. Maybe I am wrong about JoePa. Maybe people won’t judge him as harshly after we learn more about what happened. Honestly, I hope that is the case. It would be really sad to see everything that JoePa built at Penn State be labeled with an asterisks.
One major issue I have with the Penn State administration is that Sandusky continued to maintain an office on campus after the 2002 incident despite all the smoke around him. Not only that, but he continued to bring children on campus despite being told not to. Another thing to note is that Penn State officials did alert the Second Mile about these allegations and they also chose to do nothing. They are just as guilty as Penn State on this and no one seems to be evening mentioning that.
This upcoming Saturday I will travel to Penn State for the last home game of the season versus Nebraska. This was a game that I was looking forward to prior to this past weekend. The mood of the game has already been dampened, but I will go to support the student athletes on the field, especially those playing their last game in the Blue and White. I won’t lie though; it will be very hard to mutter up the courage to sing the words of our Alma Matter though, especially the last two veruses:
“When we stood at childhood's gate,
Shapeless in the hands of fate,
Thou didst mold us, dear old State,
Dear old State, dear old State.
May no act of ours bring shame
To one heart that loves thy name,
May our lives but swell thy fame,
Dear old State, dear old State. “
Those words just don’t feel the same today as they did last week. I know they say that time heals all wounds. For myself, and for other Penn Staters, we will survive. We will unite as one as we always have and always will. For the victims of Jerry Sandusky, I can only hope that somehow their wounds are healed sooner rather than later. I know it is a stretch, but I can hope and pray that once justice is served that those victims can gain some relief in knowing the punishment was dealt. I do hope that one day people will look at Penn State with respect like they did before. The Penn State I know is not what is being drug through the mud right now. The Penn State I know is a proud institution with a proud fan base that does things the right way. I hope that people will realize that when we say “We Are Penn State” that the “We” is not the individuals that failed to stop a monster. The Penn State community is a very strong community and will remain strong despite the dark days we have ahead.