And not for the reason you might think. For those who are just now tuning in to the events unfolding at Penn State, Joe “Papa Joe” Paterno, the 84-year-old legendary coach of Penn State’s football team and a 61 year veteran of Penn State football, was fired last night, along with University President Graham Spanier. The pair were fired over the child sexual abuse scandal in which long-time assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was alleged to have used his status and a charity he created–as well as Penn State property–to groom and sexually abuse boys as young as 10 years.
The grand jury report is here, but be warned, it’s very difficult to read. According to the timeline, Joe Paterno learned of the allegations from a graduate assistant coach, who had stumbled across Sandusky and a young boy in a locker room at Penn State, in 2002. Paterno contacted Penn State athletic director Tim Curley, and did not call the police. He continued to work with Sandusky at Penn State for several years thereafter.
Sandusky is facing 40 charges, and Curley and a Senior Vice President named Gary Schultz have been charged with perjury. Spanier, Paterno, and several other Penn State officials had been making statements to the press, but failed to express sympathy for the victims, at least 8 boys aged 10-14 so far, until Wednesday, November 9th. Instead, their comments focused on protecting their careers or on supporting their colleagues who are facing perjury charges in the cover up. Paterno, caught up in the scandal because of his awareness of the facts of the case and his failure to contact police, hired a lawyer and offered a statement to the press yesterday:
”I have decided to announce my retirement effective at the end of this season,” Paterno said in a statement.
“At this moment the Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status. They have far more important matters to address. I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can.”
“I am absolutely devastated by the developments in this case. I grieve for the children and their families, and I pray for their comfort and relief.
“I have come to work every day for the last 61 years with one clear goal in mind: To serve the best interests of this university and the young men who have been entrusted to my care. I have the same goal today.
“That’s why I have decided to announce my retirement effective at the end of this season. At this moment the Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status. They have far more important matters to address. I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can.
“This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.
Paterno’s offer to retire at the end of the season was apparently not enough for the Board of Trustees at the Big Ten school. Last night, the Board took action and fired Paterno and Spanier.
So why were Penn State students protesting last night? Why did they gather in the thousands and tip over a media van in the roadway? Was it because the students were outraged at the abuse that had been perpetrated against these boys and the university officials who covered it up so long?
No, no it wasn’t. Penn State students were angry that Papa Joe Paterno was fired at all, and especially because…wait for it…he won’t get his 410th career win. They wanted one more game. Yes, you read that right: thousands of Penn State students care more about Paterno’s and Nittany Lions’ sports record than they do about 10 year old boys who’ve been sodomized. Seriously. Pictures and video reaction after the jump.
Students gathered on both Beaver Avenue and College Avenue, and in front of Joe Paterno’s house. At College Avenue, protesters stormed and tipped over a media van that was reporting from the scene.
At one point Paterno came out of his home to join and express solidarity with his supporters. Unfortunately, ESPN video is incompatible with WordPress, so I can only offer a link.
I encourage you to watch it as it shows a fairly unrepentant man with a clear head and a sharp focus, which I mention because some people keep using his age–84–to excuse his actions. For whatever reason, he later came back out and yelled for protesters to back off.
Today, Penn State students will have to live with the fact that this is what they showed the world when one of their coaches was accused of serially and sexually abusing young boys and another beloved coach got caught up in the scandal after failing to do the right thing. The end of Joe Paterno’s career, while tragic, is no match at all for the tragedy of several boys who were abused over months and sometimes years, most of whom were economically or socially disadvantaged in one way or another. This is the reality that Penn State, its students and its fans must face: that no win–not even a 410th–is worth what happened to those boys.
This article has been cross-posted from P&L.