There is only one way Penn State University can begin its journey down the road to redemption in the wake of its child abuse scandal and that is by firing head coach Joe Paterno. This is not rocket science. The fact that Paterno knew of the sordid behavior of one of his staff and failed to report it to law enforcement is sufficient cause to show him the door. The idea that Paterno thinks he has the option to resign at the end of the year is an insult and reflective of the arrogance of big-time college football. In fact, Penn State’s remaining games this season should be cancelled and its record for the year forfeited.
The suggestion that Paterno should be spared because he was not directly involved in the abuse of children by assistant coach Jerry Sandusky or that his status as a college football “legend” warrants special treatment speaks volumes to the misplaced priorities in our society. The NCAA penalizes college athletic programs for such grand sins as a player accepting a car from a booster or a cash payment to make ends meet, while colleges such as Penn State reap billions from the labor of its student-athletes, some of whom will never receive a college degree or the riches of a professional sports career. Yet, there are those, including many Penn State students and football boosters, who believe that the abuse of children does not rise to a similar level of outrage as rule infractions. Give us a break. Paterno should have been shown the door yesterday.
And while we are on Paterno and the university administration, it seems beyond belief, given what the front office knew, that the coach was allowed to stay on the sidelines this season to break the college coaching record for wins on the gridiron. Forget about asterisks. Paterno’s blind spot is far more egregious than an athlete juicing up his body with steroids and breaking a home run record. Penn State University allowed Paterno to remain at the helm of its football program for one reason – money. In our book, Paterno does not deserve that honor and it should remain with Grambling University’s truly great late coach Eddie Robinson.
What we are witnessing is the ultimate expression of misplaced priorities in academia. College sports, football in particular, has become such a business that all that matters is the bottom line. The revenue generated from college football is addictive, and so many institutions are feeding from the trough of the pigskin that the judgment of adults who should know better is clouded. How in the hell did Joe Paterno not report what he knew to law enforcement? Has winning and making money become so important in college football that we see no problem with the abuse of children and we can carry on with business as usual? Just two seasons ago Paterno was under the threat of termination because Penn State was losing on the football field. Yet, there are those who now rush to his defense when his head is rightly called for over his ethical and moral failings. We suspect that had a woman or minority coach been at the center of such a scandal condemnation would have been quick and their termination swift.
The NCAA needs to heavily penalize the Penn State University football program. Nothing short of exclusion from BCS bowls for a five year period, a ban from television, ineligibility for conference championships and the loss of athletic scholarships is acceptable. If ever there was a cause for the equivalent of a programmatic death penalty, it is the scandal that has rocked Penn State. For the NCAA to do anything less than deep six Penn State’s football program will expose college sports governing authority as a sham.
We are talking about child abuse; innocent children being abused by a trusted adult on the campus of a state university. There can be no excuses. There is no amount of outrage that is sufficient in this matter. If Joe Paterno is allowed to lead the Penn State football team onto the field Saturday it will be a national disgrace. It is time for the Penn State community to rally around decency and send a clear message that the actions of its coaching staff is unacceptable. If not, the letters PSU will stand for Predator State University and forever blemish the credibility of a fine institution.