Last week Maddie’s impending birthday gave me insomnia, so I watched a lot of the coverage of the Penn State Scandal (read that link for the basics if you’re unfamiliar). There isn’t one part of the story that isn’t horrifying. From the alleged rapes of at least eight minor boys to the massive cover-up that COUNTLESS people were involved in, it’s all despicable. But there’s one part of the story that has really gotten under my skin – the fact that many people have come to the defense of Joe Paterno.
These people say that Paterno didn’t deserve to be fired because he didn’t witness the molestation. They are also quick to point out his long tenure at Penn State, along with his win/loss record and national championships, as a sort of virtual get-out-of-jail-free card.
Longevity and a history of success do NOT make ANYONE above the law. And while I know that “technically” JoePa didn’t break any laws (which is nuts), so many moral laws were violated. Not only did he not call the police after learning about Jerry Sandusky’s suspected abuse, but he continued to interact with Sandusky who remained on campus with emeritus status. How could Paterno do that and live with himself? He gave little thought, it seems, to the concerns of the victims, or the possibility that Sandusky might abuse other children.
The rapes of little boys allegedly took place in the locker room of the football building. Did that not anger Paterno? If he was literally a professor at Penn State, this would be his classroom. And if a professor had covered up something so serious, that teacher would have been thrown out of the University so fast we’d all have felt the breeze. Why should Paterno be any different?
Paterno was the face of the program. The top. The Head Coach. The buck stops there. To whom much is given, much is expected, and the head coach of any sport at an institution of higher learning has been given a lot. We trust coaches to lead us, teach us, guide us. They should be held to the highest moral standards, not the minimum.
I’m not naive – a good football team can bring in more money than tuition. I went to a school with a massively successful football team. The pressure on Paterno to keep football profitable must have been insane. But you cannot care more about your football program than the well-being of children, no matter how much money is at stake. Money is never more important than children. Keeping a job and preserving a legacy is not more important than children.
I feel sick for the victims and their families. The parents of these boys thought their kids were safe. They trusted the coaches in charge of their kids’ well-being. They were betrayed. I played sports my whole life. Imagine if that was my coach. Imagine if that was your child’s coach. Imagine if that was your child.
It is beyond contempt.