Ever since the scandal of Penn State former Assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse of under-aged boys broke last year, much of the blame had been placed on former Head Coach Joe Paterno (a.k.a. Joe Pa.) for his failure to take action.
An investigation into this scandal was headed by former FBI Director Louis Freeh. The Freeh report was recently completed, and it has indicted former Head coach Joe Paterno, former Penn State President Graham Spanier, former Athletic Director Tim Curley, and former Vice President Gary Schultz for all covering-up facts of the Sandusky sexual abuse scandal.
News of the cover-up (especially by iconic Head Coach Paterno [now deceased]) had ignited intense debates over whether to remove the Joe Paterno statue which stood in front of Beaver Stadium on the campus of State College, PA. The debates cited concerns the statue will forever encourage dark-lingering emotional wounds, as well as horrid memories of Paterno’s involvement in the sexual abuse cover-up.
On Sunday July 22, 2012, officials at Penn State University had the statue taken down and kept in a safe place away from public view. (The 900-pound Joe Paterno statue will be placed in a secure storage location).
According to a statement released by Penn State President Rodney Erickson: “…contrary to its original intention, coach Paterno’s statue has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing in our university and beyond…I believe that, were it to remain, the statue will be a recurring wound to the multitude of individuals across the nation and beyond who have been the victims of child abuse.” The decision to remove the statue comes a day before the NCAA plans to announce sanctions against Penn State University and its football program.
Prior to Penn State’s decision to remove the statue I was on the fence with this issue. Tensions were definitely high about whether or not to tear down the statue. Tensions were manifested in a number of ways ranging from planes flying overhead carrying banners that read” “Take the statue down or we will” to people publicly suggesting to let the statue stand in its current location as a reminder of the abuse to honor Sandusky’s victims; as well as to shed light on child sexual abuse everywhere. I guess this decision wasn’t about right or wrong, as I totally get both sides of the argument. As Penn State President Erickson suggested, leaving the statue in place would cause a slew of bad memories to linger and haunt the university.
Joe Paterno illustrious coaching career will be marred by his failure to act to protect young innocent boys—choosing rather to look the other ways to cover-up the actions of a sick demented pedophile. Paterno served as coach at Penn State for 60 years either as Head coach or as graduate-assistant. Joe Paterno made Penn State football. Not only was he the longest tenured college football coach, he also had the most wins in Division I football. One bad decision should not erase 60 years at Penn State, and all the good he has done for the State College community in Pennsylvania, and college football in general.
It is a travesty that his great legacy has been tarnished much the same way Isaiah Thomas (former Detroit Piston guard and NBA Hall of Famer) has been—marred by poor coaching, bad management decisions, and a sexual harassment lawsuit during his tenure with the New York Knicks as GM, and Head coach; as well as his short tenure as Head coach at Florida International University (FIU).
Paterno was fired four days after his Assistant Jerry Sandusky was arrested on November 5, 2011. At age 85 and already battling poor health, one could only image the last sad remaining months Joe Pa. had to endure as the walls of the investigation started to close in on him. The legendary Joe Paterno die on January 22 after a long battle with lung cancer.
R.I.P. Joe Pa.—statue or no statue we will always remember you as the thick-glasses wearing, venerable Penn State legend hailed for your integrity, longevity and winning ways with the Nittany Lions.