The Penn State football team will be drifting rudderless into their matchup against Nebraska this Saturday as, by what has been seen by some as a surprise, their head coach was suddenly fired last night by university trustees.
At 37 years old I cannot remember a time that Joe Paterno has not been at the helm of Penn State football. Even to this day, Penn State students and football fans bolstered their support for the octogenarian coach who was in his umpteenth season of winning football games(8-1 in 2011 as of today) with the only college program he has been a coach of.
Joe Pa, as he is known, was fired in the wake of a sexual abuse scandal that found one man, Jerry Sandusky, guilty and numerous others jobless in the middle of the night. All, except one, who at this point is still expected to be on the sideline with the Nittany Lions this Saturday.
In 2002, a 28-year-old graduate assistant with the Penn State football team stumbled apon a horriffic scene in a locker room shower and ran first to report it to Joe Paterno. Ran, that is, after first retreating to a telephone in the school where he contacted his father, who was
the second adult to know what happened. Waiting overnight to report what he saw to coach Paterno, Mike McQueary visited the head coach to tell him in person. Paterno in turn, spoke with University officials.
This is where things get murky, when it should be crystal clear. If an adult witnesses an act of child abuse, that adult has a responsibility as a person to help protect the safety of the child and report the perpetrator to proper authorities.
In the hierarchy of the college football world, perhaps the largest authority figure in McQueary’s life was coach Paterno. The graduate assistant had been a player for coach Paterno and the Nittany Lions. The police, however, were not contacted. University officials and coach Paterno also negelected to inform the police.
Jerry Sandusky started coaching at Penn State in 1969, and retired in 1999. At that time he held emeritus status which allowed him to occupy an office on the campus, have keys to various facilities, and access to other university resources.
At the time former Penn State quarterback McQueary reported the incident, Sandusky was not a member of Paterno’s coaching staff, yet visited the campus often as an honored guest of the University.
Paterno, as the head coach of the football program may have seemed invincible, but in the end, was seen as what he was. An employee of the University he coached at.
Nine years later, the graduate assistant is an assistant coach with the football team. Last night, Paterno and Penn State university president Graham Spanier lost their jobs, and students are taking to the streets in State College to protest the loss of their beloved football coach. The reputation of the University around the football team is crumbling as we speak.