I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then…
– Bob Seger “Against the Wind”
A week ago, Penn State football was riding high. In prime position to take part in the inaugural Big Ten Championship game, head coach Joe Paterno was seemingly a shining example of old school values.
Success with honor was his team motto.
A week ago none of us could imagine the scandal that broke over the weekend in Happy Valley.
Of course, a few did know what had occurred at Penn State. Most importantly Joe Paterno knew that something unseemly had happened in his football facility between a former coach and a young boy.
And shockingly despite being told of the incident by one of his graduate assistants, he did nothing to clarify the situation.
Business as usual continued in Penn State football. The retired coach in question continued to have unfettered access to Nittany Lion football facilities, games, and through his charity an endless supply of young boys.
And Joe Paterno, the paragon of virtue, never questioned a thing.
We can debate exactly what Joe Paterno could have done differently, but let’s agree that he should have done more than he did.
And that’s the problem. Paterno had always cast himself as a teacher first and foremost, his classroom was the football field, the lessons he taught were for life.
And what lesson did he teach with his 9 years of silence since he first heard about the abuse?
Of the scandal Paterno said in a statement, “This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”
Coach, we all wish you’d done more.
Especially the children who suffered in silence while this abuse was allowed to fester under your watch.
You can ponder that as you enter retirement.