For those of you who don’t follow Pennsylvania sports, there’s really only one team that doesn’t completely suck and plays in something close to what the rest of the country considers real college football. It’s Penn State, and their head coach has been there since 1950 (though only as head coach since 1966). The man is revered in Pennsylvania. I don’t understand why, either. Joe Paterno has only got such a high number of wins because he’s been doing the job so long. He doesn’t have the highest percentage of wins, and earlier this decade, he led the team in a severe losing streak.
This weekend, conveniently on an off week for Penn State & released on a Saturday, the state AG’s office announced that one of Paterno’s now-retired coaches has been sexually assaulting very young boys for years. The charges aren’t just for minors, but for minors under the age of 13. The guy also had a charity set up for troubled young boys that served as his easy source of victims.
To make the news for Penn State even worse? Paterno knew and decided to simply tell the school’s athletic director once he heard from an eyewitness that his coaching staff was raping a boy who appeared to be about 10 in the stadium’s showers. The athletic director & a school vice president are now being charged with perjury and not reporting the incident to police. Yet, prosecutors seem to be ignoring the fact that Paterno and a graduate assistant in the football program also knew and did not report it to police, instead only reported it to college officials. (Granted, not reporting the crime seem to be only a summary offense. In that case, I believe that’s actually a better reason to use the charge – it won’t end someone’s life, but it will reiterate that they should have reported it.)
Of course, this is not the first time that Paterno has ignored the consequences of sexual assault allegations. When a player from another team was alleged to have sexually assaulted a woman, here was Paterno’s response:
“There’s some tough — there’s so many people gravitating to these kids. He may not have even known what he was getting into, Nicholson. They knock on the door; somebody may knock on the door; a cute girl knocks on the door. What do you do?”
Here’s a hint: If a cute girl knocks on a door, don’t sexually assault her. (Though, it would seem the case against the player ultimately didn’t go anywhere, the accusations were fresh at the time he was asked.)
So, what do you do when someone tells you your former staffer who you allow to access your stadium & allow to attend games & coaching meetings with these young boys is seen raping them in the showers? Here’s a hint, Paterno: You don’t go to your boss and then leave it alone. You call the police. If your boss won’t do it, you do it. You follow up every damn day. You encourage the guy who actually witnessed the assault to go to the police.
I find this most appalling because I’ve seen local media & commentary applauding Paterno for his great response of not calling the police when he hears that young children are being raped by his coaching staff in his team’s showers. WTF?
I look back to my memories of the most popular coach I can recall in Oklahoma – Barry Switzer. (Please keep in mind that I was 9 years old when the guy resigned, so I’m having to go off news reports I’m finding now.) Switzer had to resign from OU (with a higher percentage of wins than Paterno, thankyouverymuch) after several players were arrested for various crimes and the NCAA launched an investigation into the program. Yet, Paterno is still at Penn State with full support after ESPN reported that in a six year period, 46 of his players managed to find themselves with 163 criminal charges. That comes out to more than three criminal charges per player in trouble in a few short years.
I don’t understand how this guy still has the support of the school, support in the media, and support of alumni. According to media reports, the Board of Trustees didn’t even entertain the question of whether Paterno should be forced to resign or retire. I come from a state that is far more serious about their college football, and I’m pretty sure that after this kind of record, we would be calling for the heads of everyone who knew and didn’t report it to law enforcement.
Joe Paterno’s career should end, and he should not be revered as some amazing football coach. He should be remembered as a guy who looked the other way while children were raped and assaulted on his watch. Of course, should he leave on his own terms, Pennsylvania taxpayers will likely be on the hook for a very generous retirement package to reward his behavior of looking the other way for criminals in his program.
UPDATE 11/8: The NYT reports that inside sources say Paterno’s time is up at Penn State. They are supposedly working on an exit plan now.