The recent news out of Penn State University that former football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky allegedly committed a slew of sex abuse crimes against children has taken the nation by storm. Any story with details of this nature is terribly disturbing, but this case is particularly polarizing because of who is involved – and who might have been involved. None other than legendary Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno is being questioned about what he did or did not report to both school officials and local authorities about what he apparently knew was going on.
Paterno, who has been a coach in some fashion at Penn State since 1950, has had a reputation as one of the most unique and beloved faces in sports, primarily because of his age and longevity at one school. In today’s era of what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, it is rare to see a head coach remain at one job for a fraction of the time that Paterno has held his position in State College, Pa.
Many fans were probably wondering when Paterno would ultimately decide to hang it up. In 2011 at the age of 84, he was quoted as saying he would like to coach “another four or five years.” But because of the Sandusky scandal and obvious pressure from all directions, Paterno announced on Nov. 9 that this would be his final season as head coach. Only the school’s Board of Trustees will determine if he can finish the remainder of the season or if he will be forced out sooner.
Clearly, this entire situation is just awful from every angle. First and foremost, you certainly have to feel for the victims of the alleged crimes. But from a college football fan’s standpoint, isn’t it an absolute shame it had to end like this? Regardless of whether “JoePa” is sent out the door before the 2011 season is over or gets his wishes and finishes with an ounce of dignity, who would have ever thought such a celebrated career would end on a note like this? It pains me to think that the “grandfather of college football” has to take a bow on such ugly terms. I don’t even know how to view the man any longer. In all likelihood, that view won’t be shaped completely until the entire saga is unraveled. We will never see another Joe Paterno. And because of that, it makes you sick to your stomach.