Joe Paterno

Hey everyone. Rob is attending a seminar on eradicating animal stereotypes in our Zoos (its become a real problem). I will fill in as best I can (that’s what she said?)

On January 21st, 2012, Joe Paterno died of lung cancer. Adding to the confusion of his legacy, his death leaves people unsure of how to feel. For 46 years Joe Paterno was the head football coach for the Penn State Nittany Lions and, unofficially, the most powerful figure on campus. He is credited with transforming Penn State from a mediocre state school with 9,500 students into a nationally recognized university of 45,000. He donated and raised money for libraries, saved the classics program, graduated his football players at an astonishing rate (no small feat in this day and age), and transformed Penn State into an academic/athletic powerhouse. Much of the academic and athletic success that Penn State has known over the past four and a half decades can be attributed to the efforts of Joe Paterno.

Enter Jerry Sandusky.

Joe Paterno knew of and harbored a known pedophile for 13 years. He allowed him access to the university, gave him an office, let him run a non-profit organization for at risk boys, and said nothing about the fact that Sandusky lived a stones throw away from an elementary school. Not to mention that he never informed the police about a report of Sandusky sexually assaulting a boy in the Penn State showers. He fulfilled his legal obligation by reporting the incident to his superior, but he never asked questions. He didn’t see it as his responsibility get to the bottom of the situation. The incident was out of sight out of mind for 13 years. To quote Paterno himself “I wish I had done more.”

How do we remember this man?

I don’t think Paterno was an evil person. He did an incredible amount of good. There are numerous quotes from students and professors about the positive impact he had, and his dedication to the the university will never be in question. However, he made many critical errors in judgement. It wasn’t one mistake, as many people seem to believe. Everyday he didn’t bring the situation to the police was a mistake. Everyday that he let Sandusky on campus, near kids, or live near an elementary school was a mistake. He deserved to be fired and held accountable for what happened. His contributions to Penn Sate should not be forgotten but he deserves to be held accountable.

An icon for 46 years, an example for other schools and athletic programs,  the most successful football coach of all time, and someone who made a terrible mistake which damaged the lives of so many. Joe Paternos legacy will be forever tarnished. He will always be remembered as the man who let all this happen on his watch. He should have done more and we all wish he had. That will be his legacy.

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One thought on “Joe Paterno

  1. This is a great post because you are big enough to realize that though one huge mistake brought him down, his life’s work should still be remembered. The problem with Paterno is that he allowed that bad judgement to continue for so many years. We can remember the good he did but we must not forget the young boys.

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