Joe Paterno – A Rush to Judgment

In Creating Happiness, Recent Posts by Barbara Jacoby

For days I have been thinking about what I would write in the first weekly blog for year 5.  I re-read my first blog and was quite surprised about the subject considering the circumstances that brought it about.  I had my mind pretty much made up about what I wanted to say until I woke up this morning and learned about the death of Joe Paterno.  And although I will seldom vocalize openly my opinion about anything, especially when I am not asked for it, there is always an exception to any rule and this is the time for me.

I would be the first one to do whatever I could to go after anyone who either molested a child or did not do something to stop such a crime.  I do not believe that Joe Pa did anything wrong, and in reviewing what he did do in his reporting and then stepping back is exactly the same thing that I would have done given the fact that I had no knowledge of what was happening in an investigation and I wouldn’t want to say or do anything that might interfere with that investigation.

Joe Paterno had a very illustrious career at Penn State as its head football coach for 46 years.  But, Joe Pa, as to which he was affectionately referred, had an equally marvelous legacy off the field.  As is stated in today’s ABC News article online:

“Paterno was known for his “Grand Experiment” at the university, stressing academic success as well as athletic achievement for his players.  “Just winning is a silly reason to be serious about a game,” Paterno wrote in his 1997 book, “Paterno: By the Book.” “The purpose of college football is to serve education.”

Joe’s football program consistently ranked among the top in the NCAA for graduation rates and for top grade point averages for student athletes in Division 1 sports.  He and his wife donated more than $4 million to the university, which named a library and a campus spirituality center for them.  And these are just a few of the examples of what Joe Paterno lived and taught all of us in his devotion to the university and its students.

Just a little more than 2 months ago, 3 months from the end of the football season and Joe’s coaching career, someone decided that this was the perfect time to bring charges against former defensive coach, Jerry Sandusky, for child molestation centering around an incident that occurred in 2002.  Even though Joe Pa reported what he knew to his superiors as he was required to do and truthfully testified before a grand jury and had no charges being brought against him for anything, the Board of Trustees chose to make Joe the fall guy and unceremoniously fired him.  Of course, the students and many past members of his football teams were upset as they knew the real man that was Joe Paterno.  And although it was his superiors who were responsible for reporting the incident, they not only chose not to do so but they also lied to the grand jury.  But, firing them would make no difference to most people.  The Board chose Joe as the sacrificial lamb in order to deflect everything away from them and the university.  And, of course, for those who knew nothing about Joe Pa were more than happy to accuse and jump on that bandwagon and judge him for what they were reading in the press which was the exact intention of the Board.  Immediately, a lifetime of honesty and integrity and putting the students of Penn State first went down the drain for a lot of people who were more than glad to rush to judgment based upon what they were reading in the papers and hearing in the news.

Well, I, for one of many, refused to buy into all of the propaganda that was published.  As a warrior for action against those who subscribe to child molestation, I would be the first one to do whatever I could to go after anyone who either molested a child or did not do something to stop such a crime.  I do not believe that Joe Pa did anything wrong, and in reviewing what he did do in his reporting and then stepping back is exactly the same thing that I would have done given the fact that I had no knowledge of what was happening in an investigation and I wouldn’t want to say or do anything that might interfere with that investigation.

Long term, I hope that the legacy of Joe Paterno will be judged by the totality of his life, his dedication to his family, the students, the football program and to Penn State University.  I hope that the terrible injustice that was done to him by the Board of Trustees will be erased.  That Board not only destroyed Joe Paterno but also the image of the university and its students and all that Jo Pa fought for.  I hope that they don’t get away with it.