The end of the Joe Paterno myth

Photo by Bill Moore. Copyright 2006

When the Penn State/Jerry Sandusky scandal broke last fall, I asked a simple question: What did Joe Paterno know and when did he know it?

Now, following the Sandusky trial and news reports alleging a Penn State cover-up, the answers to this question will likely destroy the legacy (or myth) created by Paterno over the years.

For many of us, it was inconceivable that Joe Paterno, or any other head coach, could inform his superiors about Sandusky’s behavior and then never follow up on it as Paterno claimed.

Mr. Paterno: I do not know of anything else that Jerry would be involved in of that nature, no. I do not know of it.

You did mention — I think you said something about a rumor. It may have been discussed in my presence, something else about somebody.

I don’t know.

I don’t remember, and I could not honestly say I heard a rumor.

Q: You indicated that your report was made directly to Tim Curley. Do you know of that report being made to anyone else that was a university official?

Mr. Paterno: No, because I figured that Tim would handle it appropriately.
I have a tremendous amount of confidence in Mr. Curley and I thought he would look into it and handle it appropriately.

It made even less sense in the context of Penn State, where Paterno ruled the football program with an iron fist. When Penn State officials tried to ease Paterno out on the early 2000s, Paterno basically told them to go to hell.

But now we may have a smoking gun in the form of an email.

Schultz plotted out a course of action, according to a bombshell report by CNN, citing an email exchange that’s been uncovered in the school’s independent investigation by former FBI chief Louis Freeh. The report could be released as early as next month.

It would have been better to skip directly to the third action and let the welfare authorities do the meeting and informing, but this should’ve been enough to end Sandusky’s reign of terror.

According to CNN in an email dated Feb. 26, 2001, Schultz wrote to Curley about a three-part plan that included talking “with the subject asap regarding the future appropriate use of the University facility,” … “contacting the chair of the charitable organization” and “contacting the Department of Welfare.”

Except that Curley sent an email to Schultz and school president Graham Spanier on Feb. 27, 2001, that changed everything.

“After giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe yesterday, I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps. I am having trouble with going to everyone but the person involved. I would be more comfortable meeting with the person and tell them about the information we received and tell them we are aware of the first situation,” Curley’s email said, according to CNN.

This is a stunning development, though none of us should be surprised. The emails suggest what many of us suspected – of course Joe Paterno was involved in the discussions following the allegations. And those discussions now appear to have led to a deliberate cover-up, with “Joe” being the person who caused the group to change course and not go to authorities. Paterno’s attempt to come across as an old man who didn’t comprehend what was going on now seems laughable.

Not surprisingly, Joe Paterno’s image and legacy are taking a serious hit as explained by David Jones of The Patriot News who has covered Paterno and Penn State football for years.

I can only tell you that when I read Saturday’s CNN report implicating Paterno in keeping the lid on Sandusky’s activities, I was not in the slightest surprised. I’ve suspected as much for almost two years. I did not print my full sentiments in the interest of fairness.

As a columnist, I did not want to get out ahead of this story, especially when I could not prove what I had heard. I wrote merely that I believed the PSU board of trustees had no choice but to fire Paterno. I believed that on Nov. 9, and I believe it now.

In covering the man and his football program for 21 seasons, the single most dominant thread is this: his ambition and drive. He would allow nothing and no one to disparage the institution he had built without some form of retribution. And he had complete power over his domain.

He could be a vindictive man. At times, he was pointlessly petty and nasty.

He goes on to begin preparing Paterno admirers for the worst.

It all points toward an effort to conceal Sandusky’s behavior and preserve the image of Penn State’s football program at the expense of his victims — past and future. If I am wrong and true evil exists in the world, this is pretty close to the real thing. Much closer, I think, than a sick individual irrationally compelled to commit the most hideous acts.

Now, unless you live in some sort of fairyland where Paterno had no influence over anyone but his players, the implication is clear: Spanier didn’t want news of a pedophile to break. And the man who hired the child torturer in the first place, the man Spanier was unable or unwilling to unseat, had no say in this? It’s a preposterous notion.

We don’t know the totality of what the Freeh investigation will uncover. I would just ask those who cannot get their minds around the concept of Joe Paterno acting in self-interest — acting to preserve his institution rather than individuals — to prepare themselves to have their bedtime story disrupted. You don’t get to be as powerful as this man was by sitting idly by and allowing others to call shots.

Read the entire article, as Jones offers an eloquent discussion of how none of us are perfect, and the dangers around deifying people like Paterno.

As he also mentioned, we still don’t have the full Freeh report, so we can’t be close to the final word on this matter. There may be more emails that shed further light on what happened. But what we have so far, if confirmed to be accurate, paint Paterno as an enabler of Sandusky’s crimes and part of a conspiracy to cover them up. Also, make no mistake, while many are noting that all of this was done in the misguided attempt to protect the “institution” of Penn State, when it comes to Paterno it involved his attempt to protect his job and his own manufactured “legacy.” Had this come out at the time, it would still have been a major scandal for Paterno even if he did the right thing by reporting it, and he probably would have lost his job. Does anyone doubt all of this went through his mind? Now, with the inaction and cover-up, it’s much worse of course.

In the aftermath of the CNN report, some Paterno defenders are pulling back. Dick Vitale sent this Tweet to SPORTSbyBROOKS admitting he was wrong:

RT @DickieV: @SportsbyBrooks learned of report that proves Joe Pa knew more than I believed. I WAS WRONG-always thought he couldve done more

Brooks has been right about this from the beginning, as he was one of the sportswriters who refused to let Paterno and Penn State off the hook.

It will be interesting to see if others will do the same. Mike Krzyzewski recently said that Penn State’s treatment of Joe Paterno was “horrible.” Nike’s Phil Knight was also a Paterno apologist.

It will also be interesting to see if the Joe Paterno statue will still be standing after this all plays out.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Vitale: Pete Carroll “beat the posse”

During the broadcast of the Georgetown/UConn game on ESPN, Dick Vitale commented on the report that Pete Carroll has signed a deal to coach the Seattle Seahawks.

“Well, you know, to me, he beat the posse. Posse coming after him down there, the NCAA. He takes the money, the program gets hurt in the future. I really have a problem with that. These guys go on, they leave the program, take their cash and run. Because, you know, the NCAA is still investigating them for Reggie Bush. And I just feel that he beat the posse, got his cash, and off he went.”

— Dick Vitale, during Georgetown/UConn broadcast (1/9/10)

ESPN source says that Lute Olson will resign

A source told Dick Vitale that Arizona coach Lute Olson plans to resign…soon.

Arizona’s Lute Olson is stepping down as the school’s men’s basketball coach, a source has told ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale.

Associate coach Mike Dunlap will take over the head coaching duties on an interim basis, the source told Vitale. The timing of Olson’s announcement is uncertain, Vitale reported later Thursday. Vitale reports that the move is imminent.

Arizona spokesperson Tom Duddleston said Thursday morning that Olson hasn’t informed the administration that he is resigning. Duddleston said he went to his superiors and was told, “no way,” in response to the report.

“We’re not making any announcement to that effect,” Duddleston said. “At this moment there is nothing going on.”

Olson returned to the Arizona program after taking a year-long leave of absence, which the school said was not taken for health reasons.

This is big news if it’s true. I wonder if Brandon Jennings’ decision to play in Europe has anything to do with it.

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