Amidst all of the controversy surrounding the Penn State football program, longtime head coach Joe Paterno plans on retiring at the end of the season. The luxury of Paterno being able to go out on his own terms is not one which he should have. It’s astonishing at the level of ineptitude that has been going on in not only the Penn State athletic department, but within the University as a whole. It seems that every single move they make is the wrong one. The silence, the lack of accountability, the blind loyalty. We are Penn State. Quite simply put, Joe Paterno should have been fired yesterday and it would be an embarrassment if he was allowed to step on a football field this weekend.
Throngs of students and fans lined up outside Paterno’s home last night in a show of support for their longtime coach. Paterno even came out and thanked them for their support and how much it meant to him. He ended it by saying two words. Beat Nebraska. Those two words can really sum up the bizarre outlook that is going on at Penn State. A University and Athletic department being charged with covering up systemic child abuse and child rape conducted by its former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, and he has the nerve to say “Beat Nebraska”?
Over the past few years, we’ve grown accustomed to the misdeeds and unethical behavior of college football programs. Auburn, USC, Miami, Ohio State….the list goes on. However, what is going on at Penn State goes far beyond football. The NCAA rules broken by those other schools seem like petty theft compared to what is going on here. This concerns the well being of children. The fact that a University would rather protect its football program rather than the safety and livelihood of young children is disgusting. This isn’t a NCAA issue, this is a criminal one. And despite all of this, you’ve got the main figurehead himself, Joe Pa, addressing supporters with “Beat Nebraska”. And there lies the problem. You’ve got a man who’s entire reputation built throughout decades is being destroyed by allegations that he knowingly didn’t take the proper action to help prevent further abuse of young children. A man who had the power and responsibility to stop this. All these accusations being made against him and his University and he only seems concerned about a damn football game. Not a peep of his remorse for the lives of young children that were ruined.
And that is the culture at Penn State. I give credit to the rational Penn State students, fans, and alumni who are able to look at this from a rational perspective. To idolize a program and coach for so long, only to have this news be broken to you this week. It must be heartbreaking. To the others, the ones who are showing their blind support, how about realizing that there is more to life than football. I advise them to take a step back here. Think about this. This isn’t just about football. Read the grand jury reports on the behavior of Jerry Sandusky. Read about the knowledge Paterno had of such behavior. About the inaction of men in positions of great power. Yet, somehow they won’t. They’ll defend Saint Joe Pa no matter what. They’ll say things like “one event like this shouldn’t tarnish all the good the man did in his career.” And Joe Paterno will likely finish the season coaching. He will probably be carried of the field. The fans will give him a standing ovation. The cult of Penn State football.