Passing the buck

 By MOLLIE SHERMAN – Senior Copy Editor

The recent uncovering of a long-standing sex scandal within the staff of Joe Paterno, the NCAA’s all-time winningest Division-1 football coach, leave many questioning the coach’s legacy.

qrcode“No matter what the media may say, Joe Paterno is still the man and a legend of college football!”

Cartoon by Katie Downs

I came across this Facebook status in late October, after the child sex abuse scandal involving former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was exposed. The conspiracy theories, secrets and miscommunications have exploded since the Sandusky Scandal made its way to our TV sets and social media outlets.

“Joe Pa” is celebrated for having the winningest career in college football history. In his 46-year tenure at Penn State University, the Nittany Lions took home 406 wins. Paterno led five teams to undefeated seasons. Of the five, his 1986 team won a national championship title. With 24 bowl victories, Paterno has won more postseason games than any other coach. He is also in the books for 37 bowl appearances, a number higher than any other coach can boast.

Statistics and popularity could not save Paterno when he was found guilty of not reporting child abuse, a concept unacceptable to his livid brew of supporters. When the scandal truly ignited and surprised the nation, there was a sudden outcry for 84-year-old Paterno, bashing the college for terminating “The Man” after his historic career. Supporters used Paterno’s legacy as their main weapon during vicious riots and strikes on the Penn State campus following the decision to let him go.

While there’s no denying the fact that Paterno is not nearly as malicious as Sandusky, his discretion and unwillingness to out his staff is not only illegal, but resulted in the scarring of young and innocent children.

Many of my Facebook “friends” agreed with the rioters, posting spiteful statuses directed towards the college, and even went as far as posting profile pictures in support of Paterno. However, when the truth came out, I was not sympathetic towards the legendary coach. Rather, I was baffled that such an iconic figure withheld knowledge about such outrageous wrong-doings that took place for at least 15 years.

What’s wrong with this picture?

I was shocked by the indifference for the real victims of the situation – the children and their respective families who were affected by Sandusky’s grotesque and selfish actions. He was not held accountable for his wrong-doings, which allowed him to make a dreadful mark on at least eight innocent lives.

If anything, the inflammatory statuses should have been directed towards the man who let it all happen under his watch. But even more effective than angry posts is a sympathetic and supportive outreach for the families who are dealing directly with Sandusky’s actions.

Where are the Facebook statuses for them?

It’s a shame that success on the playing field and popularity overshadowed the raw facts of this case. In any institution, no matter how legendary or successful a person may be, if the “boss” turns the other cheek away from negative behavior, both parties are held responsible.

Anger towards the college and their decision will eventually fizzle out; people have already begun to move on and accept the situation for what it is.

However, the impact Sandusky left on those eight children will remain for the rest of their lives. Let’s support the deserving people when they need it most.

More from Mollie Sherman

One Response to Passing the buck

  1. Last week as we read the end of Beowulf, we had a great discussion about the meaning of legacy and whether or not it is too early for high school students to be thinking about theirs. This situation and article creates another aspect to the conversation. Can one big mistake really wipe out a host of accomplishments? And in the end, will we all be remembered for only what happened in the days and months just before we die? This has tremendous influence on students’ perspectives.

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