Paterno’s Shameful Legacy

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines scapegoat as “one that bears the blame for others.” A student asked if I thought Joe Paterno–fired as Penn State head football coach for his failure to deal with a longtime assistant’s history of sexual abuse of children–was being made this scandal’s scapegoat. (See here, here, and here if you’ve somehow missed this story.) Paterno was told of Jerry Sandusky’s rape of a child in 2002. He reported it higher up the University chain and then did nothing else. No report to the police. No follow-up with the University.  Nothing to bring this crime to light or to ensure Sandusky did not rape again. I replied that Paterno and everyone else in the University who knew about this and did nothing should be fired. The student said “but it wasn’t his job to investigate this!” Wrong. It was his job as Sandusky’s supervisor, his job as the supervisor of the assistant who reported the rape to him. And it does not matter whether it was his job; it was his duty as an adult human being. Paterno and his family are upset over how the University handled his firing. A source close to Paterno reportedly said “You give your life to this place and that’s how you’re treated.” Boo-hoo. Let’s reword the source’s statement. “You fail to report child rape by an employee and this is how you’re treated.” It’s sad that Paterno, the winningest coach in college football history, must end his career in this fashion. It’s more sad that Paterno allowed Sandusky to continue preying on children.

7 Replies to “Paterno’s Shameful Legacy”

  1. Anonymous

    I am utterly disgusted by the actions of Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky said in an interview today with NBC’s Bob Costas,”I have hugged them and I have touched their legs without intent of sexual contact.” I do not understand how students can riot about Joe Paterno’s firing when news and confessions like this come to light. Paterno is every bit accountable for how this situation played out as Sandusky is. As said in this post, it was Paterno’s duty as a human being to report these actions to stop Sandusky from doing anything else to innocent children. We talk in our law classes about how a reasonable person would handle certain situations. The riots at Penn State make me wonder how reasonable people really are, and if we can use this idea of what a, “reasonable person” would do to impose laws. I understand that the students are upset that the legendary Joe Paterno was fired, but they should not let that blind them from the atrocious acts that Paterno himself could have prevented if he had simply done the right thing.

  2. Evelyn Ling

    I mean, the students who are rioting care more about the school’s football reputation more than anything. They look past the fact that Paterno should have done more. Since it seems like he “attempted” to do something about it, it looks as if he did enough, but he really didn’t. Yes, he might have been a coach, but maybe that’s all he was good at. In my opinion he was just protecting himself. H didn’t want to completely ruin his relationships with other people, so he didn’t fully take action. 

  3. Peter Rhim

    As a sports fan, this is the brutal truth. Paterno has been an icon for college football for as long as I can remember. So for his legacy, I did not want him to be fired. But the moral and lawful side of me knew it was only right for him to be fired. I wanted him to be able to ride out his last season, but knew everything would only work if he left. Being an iconic sports figure doesn’t excuse anyone from moral principles. It’s a sad time for Penn St. but in the end, the actions were wrong. To me, it is appalling. How could anyone with knowledge not report this to the law? This situation is disgusting. It baffles me to even imagine a human could be so far over the edge to commit sexual harassment on children. People with the knowledge are just as at fault as Sandusky. We have a right to civilization and humanity to protect others and there is no explanation for us not to protect the children of society. While Paterno notified officials, it just simply wasn’t enough. In the end, people should aim at the criminals, not the institution involved. It is not right for us to look at Penn St. as a corrupt institution. The officials should take the fall and that’s it. We need to focus on helping them recover from such a horrific incident.

  4. Sarah Schmidt

    I couldn’t agree more with this post. I think it ridiculous that students are rioting. Although I am sure this is not why they are rioting, it makes it seem like they are defending his actions in regard to the case. He has been looked at as a role model for years by thousands of students and thats what makes the whole situation worse. I think that is a major reason why the school had to fire him, to show all his admirors that his actions were wrong, even if he was such a great coach. 
    It is hard for anyone to understand when someone so great does something so wrong. In high school my favorite teacher got fired for sexual harrassment towards a co-worker. It took all of his students by surprise and many of us defended him for awhile. But when it comes down to it, you have to realize every person has the ability to do horrible things. I feel terrible for the Penn State students that feel the way that I felt in highschool but rioting simply makes the situation worse. When it comes to his legal obligation, I think Jemele Hill explained it perfectly in her article she wrote for ESPN:”For those who continue to cling to the notion that because Paterno fulfilled his legal obligation, he should be allowed to finish this season on his own terms, I pose this question: If that 10-year-old in the showers with Sandusky was your brother, cousin, nephew, friend or neighbor, would you be satisfied with how Paterno handled the situation?And now a follow-up question: How would you have felt if Paterno took the field on Saturday and thousands were cheering him?”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.