No one wants to see his/her school being disgraced, especially over something as trivial as athletics. Students at Ohio State and Miami know this feeling well after scandals created a media blitz of negative publicity surrounding the schools’ football departments. Their one consolation was that their violations were purely football-related and thus destined to be nothing more than a small pockmark in NCAA football history. Penn State’s current predicament, however, is an entirely different matter.
“I believe that what [Jerry] Sandusky did is a disgrace to Penn State's reputable name,” said Penn State sophomore Talya Levenson. “Sandusky gave our school a bad name and I really hope people do not associate his actions with the rest of the Penn State community.”
The serious charges against former defensive coordinator Sandusky, which you can read all about at College Magazine, are crippling enough to the school’s reputation. But here’s the twist: coach Joe Paterno, upon hearing these allegations in 2002, reported these crimes to school officials, who chose to do nothing. This isn’t a simple NCAA rules violation; certain Penn State officials (though not Paterno) have been charged with perjury and failure to report what they knew to authorities as required by law.
Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel didn’t lose his job because of his team’s misdeeds, but because he lied about it. Penn State appears to be using a similar reasoning for its decision to, according to The New York Times, sever ties with the legendary coach who has held his position for 62 years.
This news is crushing to Penn State students, especially to those who believe he shouldn't even be considered a guilty party in this scandal.
“JoePa told his superiors, an investigation was done and the prosecutor didn’t do anything…then went missing,” said sophomore Jeff Zlatos, citing a SB Nation article detailing how the case’s original prosecutor Ray Gricar chose not to indict Sandusky in 1998 and went missing in 2005 having never explained his decision. “JoePa did what he should have. It’s not his fault nobody followed through.”
Sophomore Julie Mangurten is more concerned with other aspects of the scandal than the Paterno issue: "I think that as much as it's amazing how much the school has come together in support [for Paterno], the support is entirely misplaced. The support should be for the victims and their families."
Levenson is just worried about more damage to Penn State’s name.
“I don’t think he should be [fired] because that just makes Penn State as a whole look guilty,” she explained. “The more people involved makes us all look bad, which isn’t how it really is.”
Penn State’s reputation may never fully recover from this crushing blow. There is a simple life lesson here that anyone can learn from: cover-ups usually don’t end well for anyone involved. Hopefully anyone who finds himself/herself in a similar position takes this message to heart and we never have to witness another messy episode like this again.
Photo: Boston Herald
Update: "Penn State football coach Joe Paterno has decided to retire at the end of the season," according to ESPN.
Update #2: "Penn State trustees fired football coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier amid the growing furor over how the school handled sex abuse allegations against an assistant coach," according to ESPN.