Tippy’s Corner: Tainted Love: The End of Joe Paterno’s Legacy at Penn State

By John Lund

Coaches are to their teams as kings are to their nations. Without coaches, there would be no guidance, no direction to lead athletes in how to play their sport well, or how to bring out the best person that they could be. Should a coach be a dictator? A figurehead of his/her respective team? Someone in it for the money? Does anyone think that those qualities exemplify a great coach? No. Great coaches are teachers. Great coaches are counselors. Great coaches love the sport that they instruct, and the athletes they teach. John Wooden was a great coach. Vince Lombardi, Red Auerbach and Mike Krzyzewski were, and are, great coaches. And after tonight’s announcement, another person will be added to this list. Throughout scandal, a forced retirement and an irreconcilable decision of the Penn State Board of Trustees to fire its head coach, Joe Paterno is and will always be a great coach.

If you’ve turned on the television, you’ve seen the face of Joe Paterno plastered on your screen, with countless members of the media asking for his immediate firing. Up until several hours ago, Paterno announced that he would retire at the end of the season (a decision he was rumored to have eventually made this season anyway) amidst the allegations brought upon the school, after 46 years as head coach of Penn State football.

The media found that preposterous, that it was a catastrophe for him to have the gall to still want to coach and that the administration would even let him coach another game.
BUT WHY HAS THIS BECOME THE HEADLINE?! Why is Joe Paterno, the most revered man to ever step foot on Happy Valley’s grounds, left to be crucified amongst thieves, when the real criminal has fallen to the back burner? The real criminal, Jerry Sandusky, a man who isn’t even worth the worst adjective in the dictionary, should have his face on the news. He should be the one sought after. If not him, move down the list.

Scapegoat Mike McQueary, a graduate assistant who witnessed Sandusky committing rape against a ten-year old boy. Instead of calling the police, or tearing Sandusky limb from limb, McQueary decided to call his father, whose words of wisdom was to simply come home. Go after athletic director Tim Curley, WHO STILL HAS A JOB, and has only requested to take administrative leave to prove his innocence, after he was told of an eye-witness assault in 2002.

Dismiss every single coward who knew something was wrong and did absolutely nothing about it, but do not come down on perhaps the most innocent man in all of this, Joe Paterno. A man who went to higher members of the administration when warned of supposed allegations against Sandusky. Was he morally wrong not to pursue the authorities? If he had actually seen Sandusky performing an act? Yes. But Paterno was not God as many, for whatever reason, believe. He couldn’t have gone over the heads of his superiors and made fools out of them just because it may have been the right thing to do.

Paterno has been nothing but a father figure for all that encompasses Penn State football, but has now been unfortunately placed as the figurehead for this catastrophe, because the public always needs someone to place the blame on. Whether it was Bartman or Buckner as the sole reasons that their respective team’s collapsed, people need to place the blame, even without the answers at hand. Innocence until proven guilty was thrown out the window by anyone with power, because something needed to be done immediately.

After the dust settled in the Board of Trustees meeting room, Paterno and University President Graham Spanier were both fired by the Board of Trustees. Paterno was of course given the honor of being fired over the phone, an absolutely classless act that should fall under criminal investigation itself. Penn State University is now left with an entire student body foolishly rioting in the streets and hundreds of more questions with even fewer answers than before.

The only thing we can answer is the legacy that Joe Paterno will leave behind him. A man who in 46 seasons at Penn State won 409 games, more than any other coach in the history of college football, and two national championships, in 1982 and 1986. He coached five teams to undefeated, untied seasons, and was one of the first to argue for a college football playoff. Paterno, ever the philosopher, appreciated the irony of finishing No. 1 with an 11-1 record in 1982 after not winning the championship with perfect records in 1968, 1969, 1973 and 1994. Paterno coached 78 first-team All-Americans, produced more than 350 players who went on to play in the NFL and put education into the forefront of his teaching philosophy. If Paterno had been on the sidelines for this Saturday’s senior night game against Nebraska, he would have coached the most games in college football history.

I could go on and on with praise for Paterno’s illustrious career, but unfortunately his firing will bring to light more of his accomplishments, if only briefly. It will take years for some to realize the monumental impact that he had on his team, his players, the community, the school, college football, and on the countless people he has affected throughout his life.

Without Joe Paterno, Penn State football program and its school will be left a former shell of itself for several years. This devastating tragedy can’t even be put into words. It’s an absolute shame for everyone involved, even after today’s decisions have been made. It will take a complete revamping of the entire program to turn Penn State’s history back towards the proud program it once was. Paterno will always be remembered, and should be exemplified like John Wooden has been to be used as a guideline for greatness. Greatness needs to come back to Penn State. The question is, who will be the person to restore order.

Follow John on Twitter @lundinbridge

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