The firing of football coach Joe Paterno and resignation of Pennsylvania State University president Graham B. Spanier were appropriate given their apparent complicity in a cover-up of a child-sex-abuse scandal on campus.
Paterno had announced Wednesday that he would retire at the end of the football season, but the university's board of trustees announced that night that it was removing the legendary coach and that Spanier had resigned.
It was inconceivable that Spanier could continue as president despite a 16-year tenure that brought the university to new heights. On Spanier’s watch and, in part, as a result of lapses in his judgment, Penn State has been brought low.
With his intention of making making his 46th season as head football coach his last, Paterno, 84, departs Penn State with his head down — a quick, stunning and once-unthinkable turn of events driven by his failure to take stronger steps amid allegations that young boys were being sexually abused by one of his staff.
Only time will tell whether this blot on Paterno’s stellar record will ever be erased. For decades, he has been Penn State’s most visible face, given the heft of Nittany Lions football. He has been both rainmaker and donor to the university whose library carries his name. Like an indefatigable Energizer Bunny, Paterno has endured long after others retired.
But the coach’s epitaph might well prove to have been contained in his sad parting announcement Wednesday: “I wish I had done more,” he said.
Like alerting police when told former longtime coaching assistant Jerry Sandusky had been caught at the university allegedly sodomizing a boy as young as 10. Like not just quietly handing off the issue to the school’s athletic director. Paterno, regarded as Penn State royalty, had more than enough clout to make sure the matter didn’t languish there.
Now, though, it remains for others to avoid new regrets. That will turn on how the university responds to the 40-count indictment of Sandusky, perjury charges against athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz, and perhaps other allegations in a still-evolving probe.
That mission falls primarily to the university board of trustees, including Gov. Corbett as an ex-officio member. Their charge must be to follow through on their announced intention to learn why it took years to expose Sandusky as an alleged predator, and then to weed out anyone who aided the cover-up.
It’s a hopeful sign that the special trustee committee being formed Friday has been directed to act with “no restrictions placed on its scope or activities.” That may mean new faces on the Beaver Stadium sidelines, given the trustees must delve deeply into Paterno’s coaching enclave. But a full accounting must occur.