…and so, just ten weeks or so after being fired, just nine weeks after the announcement that he had lung cancer, Joe Paterno passes away at the age of 85.
You kind of knew he would go like Bear Bryant did…that not long after coaching his last game, that he himself would be gone.
You hope the scales of justice do him good. That Paterno’s legacy, sullied by the scandal that brought him down, also accurately reflects the over six decades of good he brought to the university.
How many other football coaches (forget the record 409 wins, the two national championships, the 24 bowl victories) get a university library named after them? A stadium, rec center, basketball court, yes, but a library?
Paterno was different. He was from the old school. Maybe that, as I wrote about before, was his undoing. I do believe he stayed on too long. I had problems with some of his coaching, especially when he got a bit too conservative with his playcalling for my tastes. But no one could take away from the man all the good he did for the university and its students.
Unfortunately, the Sandusky scandal tarnishes that legacy. One man, one sick, evil man, can do and has done, so much to unravel so much good. It’s like that line in Elton John’s song Empty Garden. “It’s funny how one insect can damage so much grain…”, for that’s exactly what Sandusky did.
Perhaps, as I wrote before, Paterno’s old-school ways were what hurt him most when the Sandusky thing unraveled. Perhaps, being oldschool, JoePa could not, as a good, decent man, understand or grasp the actions of perversity. Perhaps what was unspeakable, unthinkable and unmentionable to one of Paterno’s generation was still to him, and as he stated, he didn’t know how to handle it and didn’t want to screw up. He was afraid of violating university procedures. In the end, he went to his supervisors, who are more guilty than Paterno of negligence. They didn’t follow up. Should Paterno have pressed the issue? Probably. He probably should have asked, “what did you do about Sandusky?” He didn’t. Maybe he trusted Curley and Schultz to do their jobs, which they didn’t. Maybe he was scared about bringing something against Sandusky, that Sandusky, if found innocent, would then turn around to sue the university and Paterno for scandal and libel (and thus win millions). Maybe, as has been written, McQueary didn’t tell JoePa enough, for as Joe stated, “I never heard of rape and men…” As I stated, Joe was from a different era.
Should he have done more? Even he admitted, that in hindsight, he should have.
But he isn’t the criminal here. It’s Sandusky on trial and jailbound. He is the monster, not JoePa.
Negligence issues rest with Curley, Schultz, and perhaps Spanier.
So he is now gone. There will never be another like him.
Let’s hope that on the scale of justice, the scale of good and evil, that all the good JoePa did outweighs the one unfortunate thing on the other side of the scale.
For he deserves to be remembered for the good, although that one stain will unfortunately always be there.
God now judges him. Rest in Peace, Joe.
You won’t be forgotten. You will be missed, and as new head coach O’Brien has made reference to, you may be succeeded, but never replaced.
Joe Paterno, 1926-2012
Update: Almost seven months later, we know more, or think we do. See updated posts written after this one.