Just months after being fired from his head coaching position, legendary college football icon Joe Paterno passed away over the weekend. Friends, family and fans across the country mourn his departure, and much discussion–and even anger–has sparked as people debate on what his legacy is and will be. (photo courtesy of 995themountain.com)
There are many supporters, who include former Penn State players, like Todd Blackledge and Matt Millen, who have been very vocal about criticizing media and fans for jumping on Paterno and holding him more accountable than all others involved with the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
The fact is that many people dropped the ball, and I agree that Paterno has been held more accountable in the media than Mike McQueary (who initially reported Sandusky’s improper behavior with a young boy in the Penn State shower room), and it has been Paterno’s name that has been on the forefront and not former athletic director Tim Curley or former PSU vice president Gary Schultz (who are both currently facing perjury charges due to the alleged cover up).
Those on the other side bring up the fact that Paterno, himself, admitted to–he could have and should have done more to help the alleged victims. Even though Paterno was never indicted, his silence and contentment with simply handing over the responsibilities of Sandusky’s heinous acts allowed a known sex offender to run free and ultimately, to torment others for nearly ten more years with free reign.
No matter which side you are on, the fact is that Paterno will be remembered for both the very, very good, but also for the very, very bad. Just like Pete Rose is known for being Major League Baseball’s all-time hits leader, he is also known for being the guy who bet on baseball and has been forever shunned by the Hall of Fame.
You cannot dispute the positive impact that Paterno made on his university, the thousands of players he coached or college football itself. Unfortunately for Paterno and his supporters, he will also be forever linked to Sandusky and how he turned a blind eye and allowed a monster to molest even more children.
Running a great practice, being a great recruiter or keeping up graduation rates will never erase the last few months of his tenure at Penn State.
On Sunday, Penn State’s basketball team took on Indiana and they observed a moment of silence. Ironically, it was Paterno’s nine-year moment of silence that cost him his legacy.