Sunday, September 21, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Nittany Lying

He didn't do the honorable thing then, so Joe Paterno must do it now. He must resign immediately.

Nittany Lying

Penn State head coach Joe Paterno should have taken charge and made sure the allegations about Jerry Sandusky were reported (GENE J. PUSKAR / Associated Press)
Penn State head coach Joe Paterno should have taken charge and made sure the allegations about Jerry Sandusky were reported (GENE J. PUSKAR / Associated Press) GENE J. PUSKAR / Associated Press

The other problem with absolute power — after it corrupts absolutely — is that it leaves its wielder with nowhere to transfer blame. That is why Joe Paterno’s cover story in this disgraceful Jerry Sandusky situation just doesn’t hold up.

Paterno is Penn State. He is the king there. The king doesn’t pass the buck up the line because there’s no one up the line to pass it to. If you accept that the 2002 incident described in the grand jury report on Sandusky was the first Paterno ever heard of his longtime assistant’s sex crimes —and that’s an enormous if — it was up to Paterno to take charge and make sure the allegations were reported.

A young graduate assistant comes to the legendary head coach after witnessing another longtime assistant coach doing something that horrific? Sorry. It is not acceptable or even credible that Paterno tossed the matter over to athletic director Tim Curley and let the whole matter slide.

Because he did not do the honorable thing then, the only honorable thing now is for Paterno to resign. Not at the end of the season. Not after going to another bowl game. Not after adding a few more wins to his record career total. Paterno must resign immediately if he or the university he loves have any chance to scrub away this stain.

It was football-as-religion that gave Sandusky the license to behave as he allegedly did. It was football-as-religion that led to what looks like a deliberate coverup by the university, its police and the athletic department. Football-as-religion must not be allowed to govern Paterno’s actions now.

How can he teach his players a game plan for Saturday’s home game against Nebraska? How can he insult everyone, especially the alleged victims here, by insisting on football-only questions at his press conferences? How can he call plays or decide on third-down strategies as if nothing ever happened?

He has been doing that for almost a decade, at least, knowing what he knew. He can’t possibly think it’s acceptable to keep doing it.

From here, it sure looks as if Sandusky’s “retirement” from Penn State was orchestrated after he was accused and investigated of inappropriate contact with a young boy in 1998. It sure looks as if the graduate assistant who reported seeing Sandusky rape a child in a shower in 2002 was rewarded with a permanent staff job for not taking the matter beyond Paterno.

Is that far-fetched? Read the grand jury presentment and tell me anything is more far-fetched than that. If all of these allegations are true — and there are too many witnesses and too many disturbing patterns to dismiss them — then Sandusky felt completely comfortable raping children in the Penn State football facilities. He did almost nothing to conceal his crimes. And let’s not kid ourselves that Sandusky just started doing this suddenly in the 1990s. This is merely what this investigation turned up for this grand jury.

And we’re supposed to believe the man who rules State College like a pharaoh knew nothing? And that when he was told, he figured someone else would handle it, then forgot all about it?

It just doesn’t add up. Paterno’s absolute power allowed him to remain head coach for years longer than anyone expected. He can’t be head coach any more because that same absolute power makes his cover story look ridiculous.

Phil Sheridan Inquirer Columnist
About this blog
Phil Sheridan has been covering pro and college sports in his hometown since 1985. He has been a columnist at the Inquirer since 2003, after a seven-year run as the paper's Eagles beat writer. Sheridan has covered eight Olympics, numerous Super Bowls and World Series, and has seen Guided By Voices and Wilco too many times to count. He lives, cooks and pursues the ultimate margarita blend in Langhorne. Reach Phil at psheridan@phillynews.com.

Phil Sheridan
Phil Sheridan Inquirer Columnist
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