Joe Paterno led a mock pep rally outside his home two nights ago, as a gathering of students cheered in support of the 84-year-old beloved football icon and head coach at Penn State University.
“Who are we?” he yelled as loud as he could.
“Penn State!” they all responded with pride.
By Wednesday night, Paterno, who had announced earlier in the day that he would resign as football coach because of the way he and other university officials handled sexual molestation allegations surrounding Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State legend and assistant coach, Paterno found himself out of a job. University trustees decided to relieve Paterno of his coaching duties and those of Penn State President Graham Spanier. The chants of “Who are we?” turned to a raging inferno of upset students, rioting in the streets and overturning news vans.
But despite the outcry, with the dismissals of Paterno and Spanier, somebody finally did the right thing. The Pennsylvania State Attorney General’s office issued a lengthy press release a few days ago that reads more like a horror novel due to the disgusting acts of abuse Sandusky allegedly imposed on his victims.
“Why should Paterno take the fall for a sexual predator?” an alarming, hell, a shocking number of people still ask themselves. One woman on sports talk radio was nearly driven to tears, she was so upset, calling Paterno a victim.
Paterno and a slew of others, according to the Sandusky indictment, decided that it was better to protect the football program rather than a 10-year-old boy who was seen by a graduate assistant getting raped by Sandusky in a locker room shower in 2002. By now you’ve probably heard the story of said graduate assistant, who is currently a coach on the Penn State football team.
After witnessing the terrible shower incident, the graduate assistant waited a day to inform Paterno, who then immediately told his athletic director. A few days later, the athletic director and another high-ranking school official held a meeting with the graduate assistant. The result of the allegations was that Sandusky, who had since retired in 1999 to focus on The Second Mile, a charity he founded for disadvantaged boys, could no longer bring his Second Chance boys to the locker room.
Nobody called the police. Nobody called Child Protective Services. And that would be the equivalent to watching a kid choke to death without lifting a finger to save him or not stopping to render aid after a violent car crash.
Paterno carried more clout as a football god – State College, PA is also known as “Paternoville” – throughout the campus at Penn State and the entire state of Pennsylvania next to the governor, for that matter. His silence over the alleged abuse that took place in his locker room shower is what made him complicit in Sandusky’s heinous acts that would follow in the years after the 2002 incident. You see, the indictment against Sandusky and the two university officials list 8 victims (that number is now reportedly over 20 at the time of this writing). The victim listed as Victim #1 in the indictment alleges his abuse took place in 2007. Victim #1’s allegations is what started a grand jury investigation. You follow where I’m going here? The grand jury investigation is how word got out over what allegedly took place between Sandusky and a 10-year-old boy in a Penn State shower in 2002 – and how school officials, Paterno included, failed to call the cops.
If everyone from the graduate assistant to Paterno to the AD and a university VP would have just called the police in 2002, there may not have been a victim in 2007. Paterno is losing his job for that very reason. The university president, Graham Spanier, is losing his job for that very reason. Tim Curley, former AD, and Gary Schultz, the PSU VP were arrested for perjury, lying to grand jury investigators about the 2002 allegations.
Meanewhile Sandusky will wait until a December hearing to find out where he goes next.
And as angry students wake up hungover from last night’s rage, perhaps they need to look in the mirror and ask the age-old question Paterno asked a few nights ago: “Who are we?”
I’m guessing the majority of them are not parents. This has nothing to do with going for it on fourth down.
For the rest of us? We’re sad. We’re upset. But finally, finally, the pattern of abuse by a man who should have been stopped almost 10 years ago, will hopefully be put away for a long, long time. And the victims of the abuse can begin to heal – and in some cases re-heal – the emotional scars they have carried since they were little kids.