As you’ve no doubt have read elsewhere, former Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno passed away earlier today, weeks after he was removed from duty due to his failure to take greater action upon learning of allegations against defensive coordinator/national pariah #1 Jerry Sandusky. Though The Nation’s Dave Zirin has already weighed in on PSU’s handling of the Sandusky scandal, on Sunday he writes ; “the all-time winningest coach in Division 1 college football history has given us another puzzle to ponder: When assessing a legacy, how much should one scandal be weighed alongside decades of service?“, ultimately concluding, “In Paterno’s case, he became victim of his own nurtured legend.”
When it was further demonstrated that Sandusky continued to be a presence on campus, in the locker room and even on Joe Paterno’s sideline with young children by his side, damning questions rose to a din: how could Joe Pahave been content with silence, given the possibility that children continued to be at risk? Did Joe Paterno, and the campus leadership, care more about their brand than anything that resembled human morality? Was a football program that had become the economic, social, and cultural center of an entire region, more important than all other concerns? Had abused children become, in the view of Penn State’s leadership, an unfortunate collateral damage necessary to keeping the cash registers ringing? The conclusions most people drew were not kind.
Let Paterno’s last teachable moment be this: if your football coach is the highest paid, most revered person on your campus, you have a problem. If your school wins multiple championships, and a booster drops money to build a statue of the coach, tear it the hell down. And if you think children are being raped, the minimum just isn’t good enough, no matter whether or not you wear a crown.