What to make of Joe Paterno

November 7, 2011

As news of the Penn State sexual abuse controversy filters out, the following appears to be clear:

1. Joe Paterno knew or should have known that his longtime assistant, Joe Sandusky, was sexually inappropriate with young boys. (He probably should have known that children were being raped, but it would be understandable for Paterno to talk himself into “sexually inappropriate”.)

2. Joe Paterno and his cohorts were informed of Sandusky’s crimes against children by a graduate assistant who was reliable enough to be promoted within the Penn State program. There is no reason to think that the whistle blower was not earnest. At present, there is no indication that Paterno et al., contacted Sandusky to clear up any perceived misunderstanding.

3. Joe Paterno did not contact law enforcement to report these crimes. (In most, if not all states, educators are required to report suspected abuse. Paterno, as the most prominent employee of the Pennsylvania State University system, is an educator.)

4. Joe Paterno’s only action was to call the athletic director, another Paterno protege, who then did nothing. Since the AD owed his career to Paterno, and based the entire Penn State athletic program around Paterno’s legacy, one could argue that Paterno shares moral responsibility for the AD’s conduct. It’s difficult to imagine a scenario where an AD would not do exactly what Paterno wanted him to do.

5. Joe Paterno did not prevent his child-abusing former assistant from returning to the Penn State facilities, using the renowned football program to impress and seduce more victims. Paterno knew, or should have known, that pedophiles do not stop after one victim. Upon hearing of the allegations against Sandusky, he should have immediately suspected that Sandusky had been abusing children for years and would continue to abuse children if left to his own devices.

6. As the head coach of a college football program, Joe Paterno has spent decades going into the homes of teenage boys and promising their parents that he would do his best to mentor their sons into adulthood. That his program valued integrity over all else. Integrity requires action in the face of injustice.

7. As he head coach of a college football program, Joe Paterno is expected to be fully responsible for everything that happens within that program. Paterno established the rules and was expected to be the chief enforcement officer. When athletic programs go afoul, coaches, AD’s, and university presidents are held to answer for the failings.

8. Joe Paterno must resign or be fired immediately.