Jewish World Review Nov 8, 2011 / 11 Mar-Cheshvan 5772
Paterno's illustrious career faces tarnished end
By Dan K. Thomasson
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Few things are quite as pathetic as a revered hero who stays around too long and suddenly becomes embroiled in a scandal that threatens to undo the saintly image most everyone expected he would take to his grave.
But that is exactly what octogenarian Joe Paterno faces only a few short weeks after becoming the coach with the most victories in college football history. It turns out that the longtime mastermind of the Pennsylvania State University's elite gridiron program reportedly knew for nine years or so but did nothing about the degrading sexual activities of one of his most trusted assistants, his former defensive coordinator who was arrested over the weekend on charges of abusing eight boys over 15 years. Jerry Sandusky had been running a foundation to help needy children.
What in the world was Paterno thinking?
I must confess here that I never have been a fan of his. I thought among other things that he didn't have the grace to give the proper credit for his team's successes to those who for most of the last years actually have been running things. But my real antipathy toward him stems from an incident involving my youngest son, who as a budding player was invited to Paterno's elite summer camp and came back angry and dismayed to report being snubbed when he and other attendees approached the great man to say hello.
If the Pennsylvania attorney general's report can be believed, and there is no reason not to, Paterno was informed in 2002 by a graduate assistant who said he saw the defensive leader, Sandusky, abusing a 10-year-old boy in the locker room. Paterno informed the athletic director but no one told the proper authorities. It seems obvious the school was more concerned about the potential damage to its program than the welfare of the youngsters. They reportedly just told him not to bring any more kids around the football program.
That callous disregard can be expected to cost the university big time. Two of the officials, the vice president for finance and the athletic director, allegedly have been charged with perjury and failing to report a crime. Meanwhile, the university's president foolishly issued a statement supporting the two officials.
Paterno has not been charged, but the impact of this is nearly as bad for him as if he had been, considering the depravity of the situation and his failure to personally take the case to law enforcement officials.
I couldn't help but compare this to a widely reported case involving a 26-year-old man convicted in Florida the other day of having pornographic images of children on his computer. It was his first arrest, he had no record of any kind, and there was no evidence that he had ever been accused of molesting any one, child or adult. He was given life imprisonment without parole solely on the basis of having downloading the images. He had turned down an offer to plead guilty in exchange for a 20-year term. So the prosecutor filed more serious charges. His sentence was exactly the same as is expected for a murderer recently convicted in an unbelievably brutal slaying of a yoga-store employee here.
If he had abused or molested a child, the young man would have been given a much lighter sentence. The judge's startling ruling, based on the argument that anyone downloading these images is guilty of furthering the depraved child porn industry, is being appealed.
In the Penn State case, Sandusky faces a long time in prison if convicted. It may be a life sentence, given that he is 67. He is out on $100,000 bond. I would have made it $1 million.
But the troubling question remains as to the responsibility, morally and legally, of those who aided and abetted his despicable actions by remaining silent. No mitigating explanation of any kind would be acceptable from any of them. There might be a tendency to excuse Paterno because of his age. But if his mental faculties are good enough to run a major college football program, they're good enough to know right from wrong.
How sad for the coach who has stayed around too long.
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