Thursday, November 10, 2011

Paterno drags Penn State down with him

Joe Paterno goes down, as he should, for his failure to do the right thing. Unfortunately, he took Penn State right down with him.

News of Paterno’s late-night firing led to a mass demonstration by Penn State college students that turned into an ugly riot. The legendary coach is the target of widespread anger and scorn outside of the university because of his failure to aggressively stop an alleged child rapist. But not on Paterno’s campus. And make no mistake; Penn State is his campus and his school.

Those rioting college students made a bad situation a lot worse. Yes, they are young, but they are old enough to know the difference between right and wrong. They are old enough to know that you can’t throw things at the police, that you can’t topple a media news van no matter how much you hate the media because you blame reporters for what happened to Paterno, that you can’t cause mass chaos just because you are angry that your football coach was fired. I’m truly shocked at the comments from these students justifying their behavior. They are wasting their outrage on a man who admitted that he did not do the right thing. Their outrage should be directed at Paterno and all the other Penn State employees who allegedly allowed children to continue to be victimized by Jerry Sandusky.

It was because of the supposed disrespect to Paterno, learning his fate in a phone call, that anger erupted on the streets of State College, Pennsylvania. Should someone from the board of trustees have tried to inform Paterno of the decision in person? Sure, but on the list of sad things about this entire situation, I’m going to choose not to worry about Paterno getting sacked over the phone. I will instead worry about all those kids Paterno and the others could have saved if any of them had called the police immediately after learning of the alleged attack.

But Paterno deserves some of the blame for last night too. He could have said he was immediately retiring so that he does not further burden a school that he claims to love. Instead, he insisted on trying to retire on his own terms, tried to dismiss the board of trustees by saying that they should not worry about his future. As painful as the decision must have been for some of the board members, they knew in their hearts and minds that Paterno had to go for the sake of the school, which is why the vote was unanimous. If Paterno had just gone quietly on his own, if he had not put the board in the difficult position of having to fire him, last night would not have happened.

I don’t even know how the school recovers from this disaster. Paterno goes and drags a great university down with him, first by his inaction to a horrific crime and then for his failure to do the right thing for Penn State and quietly walk away to spare the innocent staff members and students further pain and embarrassment.

Thanks to PSUMark2006 via en.Wikipedia for the Paterno photo.

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