Thoughts on the treatment of Paterno

As I look back over the events of the past month, still saddened by the treatment of Coach Paterno, I am also still dismayed by the public scorn directed at him, without so much as hearing his point of view, and the relative ease with which people have accepted his demise as coach. Keep in mind that he remains a state employee and tenured university professor. They didn't actually fire him, because legally I'm not sure they could without cause. He was simply relieved of his duties as head coach.

When I compare the Sandusky scandal with the Bernie Fine scandal at Syracuse University, I see the contrast with the way the SU administration treated Head Coach, Jim Boeheim, who like Patrerno, employed an assistant now accused of child sexual abuse, under his watch. Unlike the PSU Board of Trustees (BOT) the Syracuse administration stood by Boeheim, and essentially circled the wagons, telling the media to wait until all investigations were concluded, before they would judge Boeheim.

I cannot help but consider that this somewhat counter intuitive stance was indeed the best way to quell any further media uprising and helped bring to a screeching halt another potential media firestorm . In retrospect and by comparison, it seems to me that the PSU BOT phone call firing of Coach Paterno actually added to the media narritive and prolonged the sensational coverage of the whole scandal. Had they simply issued a statement similar to Syracuse, that while they were disturbed by the allegations, they would stand by the legendary coach and wait until all the facts were established before preceeding with monumental decisions, I believe they could have easily dissipated a lot of the media fervor.

Many of us suspect that the only reason for the rash decisions by the BOT was indeed to relieve the pressure they felt from all the cameras and spotlights descended upon State College, but it is clearly evident now that those decisions have badly backfired. They played directly into a bloodthirsty media's hands. The hasty dismissal of Paterno, right on the heels of his retirement announcement, actually took on the dimensions of an even bigger story and fanned the flames of innuendo regarding conspiracies and cover ups and spread more attention to the other assistant coaches leaving Jerry Sandusky almost an afterthought.

I will always remember dissappointment and disgust in the PSU BOT for the spineless way in which they handled themselves during this episode in PSU history. It is acid etched in stone no matter how all this turns out in the end.

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