Paterno and Penn State: Students Sound Off
February 2, 2012
As most know, scandal has rocked “Happy Valley”, otherwise known as Penn State University. The “Penn State Scandal” as it’s been coined, is about allegations brought against former assistant coach to the Penn State football team, Jerry Sandusky. The allegations involve supposed sexual abuse against 40 young boys over a 15-year period at the Penn State facilities.
Sandusky, who was an assistant at Penn State from 1969-1999, was one of the most notable college football coaches in history, receiving Assistant Coach of the Year awards in 1986 and 1999. But his actions after he retired will formulate the basis of most people’s memories.
On November 4th, 2011, a grand jury indicted Sandusky on 40 counts of sex crimes against young boys. The indictment came after a three year investigation into Sandusky’s involvement with a 15 year old boy over the course of four years, which began when the boy was 10. The boy’s parents reported the involvement in 2009, which initiated the investigation into Sandusky’s conduct. The grand jury identified eight boys that had been singled out for sexual advances or sexual assaults by Sandusky, taking place from 1994 through 2009, and at least 20 incidents took place while Sandusky was still employed at Penn State.
On November 5, 2011, Sandusky was arrested and charged with seven counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse; eight counts of corruption of minors, eight counts of endangering the welfare of a child, seven counts of indecent assault, and other offenses. Also, the athletic director and senior vice president were charged with perjury and failure to report suspected child abuse by Sandusky.
According to the indictment, Sandusky was found having “sexual relations” in the showers with a ten-year old boy, by 2011 a Penn State graduate assistant, and now assistant coach, Mike McQueary. The next day, McQueary reported the incident to head football coach Joe Paterno, who informed the athletic director. It is alleged, the only actions that the athletic director and the senior vice-president took were to bar Sandusky from bringing young boys into the football building, take away his keys to the locker room, and report the incident to Second Mile; these actions were approved by the school’s president, Graham Spanier.
Some feel that the greatest victim of this scandal is Joe Paterno himself. Paterno, who was planning on retiring at the end of the season, was fired within days of the release of the scandalous expose. Paterno, 85, has been on the coaching staff at Penn State University since 1950, and had been head coach since 1966. He was unceremoniously fired because of his “lack of action” in the situation. While Paterno did nothing wrong legally, many feel that he was ethically negligent, by not doing more to report Sandusky.
Now, it seems that everyone has stated their opinions on this scandal turned tragedy, including some of your fellow classmates at Hubbard High School. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, because there’s never a wrong opinion. It seems that everyone has something to agree on, and that is that Sandusky is in the wrong and should be punished. Junior Brian Lyons stated, “…Jerry Sandusky is a sexual predator and deserves to rot in prison.” Most students tend to share that feeling. Even those who don’t know the situation in its entirety still feel Sandusky deserves the worst. Like junior Rachel Vallas who said, “I don’t follow sports all that much; however, what that guy did was bad.”
But what’s become the hot topic around the country is Paterno’s involvement and dismissal. There are some like junior Bill Heath, who think Paterno did nothing wrong. “I feel like a legend got fired for telling the wrong person. The Athletic Director should’ve alerted authorities.” Freshman Chris Colella shares that sentiment saying, “I think Joe Paterno is the most innocent one in the whole thing and Sandusky deserves what he gets.”
However, there are many students and teachers who believe Paterno had to be dismissed. “He was the head coach, and the buck stops there,” stated junior Danny Madeline. Fellow classmate Christian Bennet agrees. “Paterno needed to report this incident to the police and not just the Athletic Director,” stated Bennet. “He knew the actions were criminal.”
Those who are in sympathy for Paterno, are primarily concerned with how his dismissal was handled. Senior Anna Pedicini said, “Joe Pa[terno] even said that he didn’t know how to handle the scandal. Penn State fired him in the worst possible way.” Lyons echoed the same idea when he stated, “He shouldn’t have been fired; things could have been handled differently. He was a legend.” Sophomore Jesse Record had the same mindset when he said, “I think it was really embarrassing for a decorated coach of a pretty decent team to have his career just thrown away.”
One thing is for sure, and that is that Penn State University won’t be the viewed in the same way from here on out. Senior Kevin Lawson commented: ”It’s a shame Penn State will never be looked at as it was before.” And junior Rachel McConnell stated strongly that the incident was a “black mark on Penn State’s record.” McConnell also brought up a good point that really hasn’t been addressed by saying “What I don’t understand is why the victims waited so long to come forth?” Another interesting point was made by junior Aly Zubyk, who stated, “I don’t know what’s more pathetic about the whole thing; the fact that a football coach sexually harassed kids, or how many times he was able to get away with it.
Gina Frontino, a senior at Hubbard High School, who is viewing Penn State University as an option for college, and went on a college visit the week this scandal went mainstream had this to say about the situation, “Well I think it shouldn’t have happened the way it did. They could have respected the coach and given him a chanceto step down voluntarily. I’m not really educated enough on the whole history of Penn State, so I can’t tell you too much. But I would still go there no matter what people say about that scandal. It’s a very good school and their school pride is so strong that it seems like nothing will ever bring them down.” While they may now be considered as somewhat of a tarnished package, the future still looks bright for Penn State University.
Joe Paterno was diagnosed with lung cancer a short time after his dismissal from Penn State University. At first look, it seemed curable, and Paterno’s diagnosis was good. But the cancer was far worse than believed and, after a two month fight, Paterno succumbed, dying on Sunday, January 22nd, 2012. Many speculate that the stress of the Penn State scandal contributed to his death. Paterno is survived by his wife, Susan, his five children, and seven grandchildren.
Importantly, Paterno is also survived by his fans: the same fans that rioted in the streets after his firing; the same fans that filled his front lawn in support. Joe Paterno meant a great deal to the fans, Penn State, college football, and even the entire country. He was truly a football icon.
Now, did Paterno deserve to be fired? Perhaps the university could’ve handled his dismissal better but, yes, he probably did. Did he deserve to be questioned? Absolutely. Did he need to explain his moral lapse and errors in judgment? Without a doubt. Lastly, did the pressure of this event lead to his untimely death? When you take away a man’s life and passion, what else is there to live for? And it’s sad that the legendary Joe Paterno had to go out like this, brought down by both cancer and a broken heart.
Mitchell, Clint. “Chomping at the Mitch: Remembering Joe Paterno’s legacy, an American classic.” The Mansfield Mall. Web. 1 February, 2012. 2 February, 2012. http://marshfieldmail.com/sports/chomping-at-the-mitch-remembering-joe-paterno-s-legacy-an/article