As university presidents throughout the country view the steaming pile of rubble that was once college football’s greatest coach and its most admired program, they should understand one thing.
None of this is a coincidence.
It is no coincidence that the most heinous scandal in the history of college sports happened at Penn State University.
It is no coincidence that an alleged child molester was allowed to roam the Penn State University grounds unchecked for nearly a decade with the knowledge of everyone from the school president to the football coach.
It is no coincidence that an alleged sexual assault of a 10-year-old boy in the showers of the school’s football locker room was never reported to police by anyone at Penn State University.
It is no coincidence, because for 46 years it was not really Penn State University, it was Paterno State University. It was a school that sold its soul to football coach Joe Paterno for the sake of riches and recognition, a school that found its identity in his plain uniforms and lived its life by his corny pep talks.
Paterno was allowed to play God, and so his longtime assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was allowed to do whatever he wanted, wherever he wanted, even if it included alleged sexual abuse of eight boys over a 15-year period.
Penn State created Joe Paterno, worshiped Joe Paterno, and stunningly required four long days to finally throw the phony out into the street Wednesday when public furor forced the school’s board of trustees to fire him for not reporting Sandusky to police.
What took them so long? It was the same sick fear of Paterno’s power that created this nightmare in the first place.
Penn State and Paterno got everything they deserved for failing to live up to the words uttered by board vice chairman John Surma, a truth acknowledged 46 years too late.
“‘The university is much larger than its athletic teams,” said Surma, as if that was something that actually needed to be said.
The shame on the 84-year-old Paterno will last the rest of his life. His two national championships and Division 1 record 409 victories will pale in comparison to the number, apparently growing, of allegedly assaulted children.
The dishonor to the university will last for years. Who on earth wouldn’t think twice before sending their child to a place where the priorities are so whacked that the football team was allowed to hide an alleged child molester as long as they won football games?
The question now is, how long will the scandal rumble the foundations of similar athletic kingdoms created by other schools around the country? There are other Penn States out there. Are they listening? Will they learn?
Will this affect the transparency and accessibility of those giant athletic departments whose buildings are locked and closed to everyone who does not have the proper key card or fingerprint?
Will this change the way administrators so tightly embrace the athletic money machines that they create a sense of entitlement among 18-year-olds who break NCAA rules because they think rules don’t apply?
Amid a college football season filled with cries from angry athletes demanding to be paid, will people look at the Penn State crisis and realize that a player payroll would only make the athletic department walls taller and thicker?
The Penn State issues which led to this cover-up are not new ones.
Several decades ago, former Oklahoma University president George Lynn Cross once told the Oklahoma senate, “I want a university the football team can be proud of.”
Just last summer, when asked if he was going to fire Ohio State’s football coach Jim Tressel, the school’s president Gordon Gee said, “I hope he doesn’t fire me.”
This attitude always sounded funny, but it’s always been real, and how sad that it took the violation of children to make the sports world understand.
Even at the end, Paterno didn’t understand, as evidenced by his final pathetic call as a head coach. Early Wednesday, he announced he was retiring at the end of the season, noting in his statement that he didn’t want the school’s board of trustees to worry further about him.
Yeah, right. He was just trying to squeeze two or three more moments of glory as his castle was collapsing around him.
And of course he thought it would work. This is the same Paterno who basically threw university president Graham Spanier and athletic director Tim Curley out of his home several years ago when they tepidly approached him with the idea of resigning.
But this time, finally, thankfully, the power sweep didn’t work. The trustees didn’t fall for it. On Wednesday evening Paterno was gone, and how fitting that both Spanier and Curley have also been kicked to the curb.
In a final show of misguided loyalty Wednesday night, some Penn State students surrounded Paterno’s home and cried for him.
Save your tears for the victims while working up a cheer for the fall of one of the most oppressive college sports dictatorships in America.
Paterno State University is gone. May it rest in pieces.