I am extremely disturbed by what has happened to the reputation of the Penn State University and now former football coach, Joe Paterno. After the arrest of former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, on child abuse charges being brought by a grand jury indictment, someone decided that that blame should be placed upon Joe Paterno and that he should be fired from his head coaching position after 46 years and having established his reputation for being all about the kids and running one
I am very sad about the recent indictment that has been brought in the court of public opinion about Paterno and the PSU students. They, too, have now become the victims of Jerry Sandusky in their own right. Although none of them have played a role in the abuse of Sandusky’s victims, they are paying the penalty.of the cleanest programs in the country.
The press had a field day with this story. Sandusky was arrested last weekend but I have not seen one story that was written about this pedophile this week. Rather, despite the fact that Paterno did report an incident to his superiors back in 2002 when it was brought to his attention and the PA attorney general has indicated that Paterno acted properly and no charges were being brought against him, he was unceremoniously informed by phone on Wednesday that he was fired. The students were justifiably upset and some took to the streets in State College while others headed to Beaver Stadium to show their support for the beloved coach. Yes, a few people did get out of order as a news van was overturned and some windows were broken but if you listened to responsible reporting by an organization like ESPN, you soon found out that the gatherings were not unruly and that most students just came out of their rooms to find out what was going on. In the interim, reports were out far and wide about the “rioting” of the Penn State students.
Although I do not want to comment on my personal feelings about this case and how it was handled, I do think that it is worth noting that an investigation had been started by the District Attorney in that county in 1998, but we will never know why he didn’t bring charges against Sandusky as he mysteriously disappeared in 2005 under very bizarre circumstances. Here’s the story. I don’t think that the DA was done with his investigation at that time and I do think that the recent indictment was as a result of the continuation of his investigation.
However, I am very sad about the recent indictment that has been brought in the court of public opinion about Paterno and the PSU students. They, too, have now become the victims of Jerry Sandusky in their own right. Although none of them have played a role in the abuse of Sandusky’s victims, they are paying the penalty. An 84 year-old coach who has always put the students first not only on the playing field but in his life has had his reputation ruined in a moment of over-reaction by a Board of Regents who is only concerned about themselves. An entire student body was immediately characterized as unruly and out of control because they were upset about the firing of their beloved coach. But if some had just waited a little longer before passing judgment, they would have soon learned that this has nothing to do with football and the game being played on the field.
Even in the face of all of the disruption that occurred on their campus this week, not one negative word was spoken by Paterno. And if you happened to catch the game yesterday, you would have seen his team walk unto the field as a group in tribute to him and to meet with their opponents in the center of the field while prayers were offered up for those children who had been abused. At the same time, in the stands, you would have seen 107,000 fans dressed in blue (the color representing child abuse awareness) quiet for a moment of silence for the victims of a former coach who has not been on the sidelines for Penn State in this century after “retiring” in 1999. As always, they conducted themselves with dignity and respect for the victims rather than speaking out about how this has hurt them. And each time as the cheer went out from the stands that “We are Penn State”, I once again understood why they are so special and why they have every right to be proud of themselves.
If you have any knowledge of a child being abused, you can call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD.
Barbara Jacoby is an award winning blogger that has contributed her writings to multiple online publications that have touched readers worldwide.