[Speaking for myself, not the entire masthead. All anger and insults should be sent my way. -C.G.]
Joe Paterno has spent the majority of his long life fighting for those who needed help. It just happens that he led Penn State to 409 victories on the football field along the way. He has fought for opportunities for African-American athletes and coaches when that wasn't a popular sentiment in college athletics. He and his wife Sue donate substantial time and money to Special Olympics. They have donated over four million dollars to various educational departments and entities at Penn State, including the Paterno Library.
On an individual level, he has psychological tweaked players -- and all of us, along the way -- into performing better in the classroom, on the field, and in life. He has pushed for NCAA reform to make athletics more equitable on and off the field. He has taken chances on players in whom he saw potential unfulfilled, and often helped them to avoid the dangerous trappings of their adolescent environment. Penn State's football program has always graduated its athletes at a substantially higher rate than its competitors, and its graduation rate for African-American players was above the national average for more than twenty years. There is a reason people have referred to Paterno as "Saint Joe".
No matter the magnitude of this present scandal, the totality of the good almost certainly outweighs his sins of omission in the Penn State's current scandal. That is not to minimize the horrific recent events in Happy Valley, but a tribute to the six decades of goodwill and good deeds Paterno has accumulated over six decades at University Park.
At the age of 84, there are very few groups that Joe Paterno hasn't affected in a positive way. With the current scandal in Happy Valley, Joe Paterno has the opportunity to spend his twilight years raising money and awareness for one final group: vulnerable, sexually exploited children.
He needs to do so, in retirement. Same goes for Graham Spanier, Tim Curley, and Gary Schultz. Effective immediately.
Nobody questions that the main villain in this story is Sandusky. However, not enough was done by any of these other individuals to protect then-and-future victims from sexual exploitation in the Penn State community, often on the Penn State campus. At best, they kicked the can down the road. At worst, they collectively squashed an investigation of a child rape. We cannot, as a community, continue to give Penn State the benefit of the doubt when Jerry Sandusky was permitted to continue using Penn State facilities, bring a child to a Penn State football practice in 2007, and use Penn State's football weight room as recently as last week. It is beyond reprehensible.
The university and its football program are grossly unable to gather their shattered pieces and move onward while any of these men remain in positions of power. The students, faculty, staff, citizens, fans, and alumni who made and continue to make Penn State great deserve better. You deserve better.
The current Penn State football team, forgotten in this disgusting inferno, but sitting at 8-1 with a chance to unexpectedly win the Big Ten? They obviously deserve better than this. A bitter quarterback controversy is as appealing as a three-scoop sundae at this point. Tom Bradley should be appointed Interim Head Coach immediately, and lead this brave team through its final games.
Most of all, those exploited children, who eagerly embraced Penn State and opportunities to be given premium access to its legendary football program? Those children, from underprivileged or neglected backgrounds and with stars in their eyes, were expoited by a Penn State legend and then cast aside when things became too uncomfortable to handle. They deserve so much better than what they got from Penn State.
The cronies must all go. They have destroyed Penn State as we all knew it for so many years. If they love the University as much as they have professed over the years, they will leave now.
Today, the circling of the wagons in Happy Valley continues, with Joe Paterno scheduled to take the stage at an early afternoon press conference. Needless to say, it is Paterno's most important and anticipated press availability ever, with hundreds of pointed, pending questions from local and national media about the worst scandal to ever hit collegiate athletics. Perhaps this is still too raw, too new, and too close to home for me, but I believe we've passed the previous low-water mark of the Baylor basketball scandal. This was chronic and systemic.
Penn State issued a statement to the media last night, warning them that Paterno would not answer any questions other than those pertaining to this weekend's final 2011 home game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. From a legal standpoint, this is the correct move. Paterno will be a prosecution witness in any potential trial against Sandusky, and possibly against Curley and Gary Schultz. Further, if you listened carefully to the words of Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly at her press conference yesterday afternoon, you would have noticed that she said Paterno and PSU President Graham Spanier were not targets of her continuing investigation "at this point". Nobody is completely out of the crosshairs yet.
From a practical and moral standpoint, the community and nation at large demands that Paterno and Penn State come clean -- anyone seen Graham Spanier lately, by the way? Because coming clean is seemingly impossible given the ongoing legal proceedings, the press conference is setting up to be a nightmarish, no-win situation for all. Penn State can't allow Paterno be badgered by the local and national media, who undoubtedly will ignore Penn State's hopeless plea to keep questions focused on Nebraska. Penn State certainly cannot cancel the press conference without being pilloried. Finally, Paterno cannot be seen storming out of the proceedings while failing to address the allegations.
How does this press conference turn out well for anybody? Assuming it continues as planned, it will be tragically fascinating in every regard, but it's difficult to see how it will improve Penn State's perception and reputation. Nothing other than mass resignations, an unrestricted investigation, and a search to find the victims (including those yet to come forward) and get them the help then need will suffice.
Even that is probably not enough.