Dear Penn State: The Joe Paterno Statue has to Go

Update 7/20

Amid the fallout of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, Penn State University will remove the statue of legendary infamous coach Joe Paterno near Beaver Stadium this weekend.


Over the last 20 years I’ve spent every fall splitting time between high school and college football games. Many of my friends are high school or college coaches while both my brothers coach high school football. We spend hours diagramming plays and discussing coverage packages.

I believe that participation in sports is a remarkable tool to help prepare people for life and football is my favorite sport. So it was understandable that I considered Joe Paterno to be a hero.

But I started to lose respect for him in 1999. It took some digging but here is a video of why.

I saw these plays on TV during a game break. My immediate reaction was that JoPa was going tear into Arrington.  He may have somehow missed it did during the game but there would be hell to pay afterwards!

But JoPa didn’t. In fact he defended Arrington and even said that he had no interest in reviewing tape of the plays in question. He just ignored it. Here was one his players blatantly taking cheap shots at a defenseless opponent and JoPa couldn’t care less.

Success with honor, indeed.

Penn State won the game when Arrington blocked a late FG attempt by Pittsburgh. Penn State escaped with the game, their #2 ranking intact but JoPa reputation, at least with me, was on the decline.

In order to win a game, he turned a blind eye to the thuggery of one of his players.

Winning was more important.

It would be a decade between Penn State wins over Michigan. My respect for JoPa continued to decline as the number of Penn State football player arrests continued to climb. It got so bad that ESPN did a special report on the subject in 2008.

Between 2002 and 2008 “…46 Penn State football players have faced 163 criminal charges, according to an ESPN analysis of Pennsylvania court records and reports. Twenty-seven players have been convicted of or have pleaded guilty to a combined 45 counts.”

But before every Michigan-Penn State game someone would make the obligatory, “isn’t JoPa great!” remark and I’d answer the same way every time.

“I like JoPa, I like to beat him.”

And after every defeat JoPa would have some lame excuse to explain his team’s futility, “the timekeeper screwed us!” and my favorite “the grass was too long!”

All during this time my opinion of JoPa was that the game had passed him by and that he was compromising his values- “Success with Honor!” to stay relevant.

So when the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke, I assumed that he was victim of circumstances, that people around him had hidden the horror of Sandusky’s actions because surely there’s no way JoPa would have stood idly by as children were molested.

But the Freeh Report issued  last week made one thing perfectly clear- JoPa was an active participant in enabling Sandusky to continue preying on children.

He covered for him and enabled his actions.

Since the report, the Penn State community is in agony. There is talk of the Penn State football program getting the death penalty, and the University will soon be facing a number of lawsuits from Sandusky’s victims.

And outside Beaver Stadium, the statue of Joe Paterno continues to stand.

According to ESPN the statue remains “…in part, to not offend students and alumni who still hold the late coach in high esteem.”

I understand that people have strong feelings about the JoPa they thought they knew. But given the contents of the report there’s no way that statue should remain.

We don’t build statues to people who enable serial pedophiles.

When I scandal broke, I wrote- …We can debate  exactly what Joe Paterno could have done differently, but let’s agree that he should have done more than he did.

Far from not doing enough, the report found that Paterno discouraged Penn State officials from contacting outside authorities.

Penn State- this is the guy you want to honor with a statue?

At some point JoPa stopped being deserving of the honor.

Penn State fans have a choice- keep the Joe Paterno statue outside Beaver Stadium, idealizing the Paterno myth or join the rest of the world in mourning the failings of Paterno the man.

You can’t have it both ways.

Exit Paterno


Joe Paterno, the man, died last night after a short battle with cancer.

JoPa, the legend,  died last November amid revelations that he did little when confronted with allegations that one of his long time coaches had molested a child in the Penn State football showers.

How do we reconcile the man with the legend?

Many say that we put too much stock in our sports figures. But if any person seemed worthy of admiration it was Joe Paterno.

Maybe he started to believe his own press. Surely the excuses he gave for his inaction during his final interview were embarrassing. He certainly wouldn’t have accepted lame excuses from one of his players.

Today we’ll we hear from his former players, many of whom credit Coach Paterno with being major reason for their success.

Let’s honor man while remembering that we’ve learned he’s not quite worthy of being a legend.

We are…Clueless – A response to an “An Open Letter to the World from a Penn State Alum”

Ugh, you just don’t get it.

Even in the wake of the most horrifying scandal in the history of college football you’re missing the big picture.

Let’s start with the most important part of this – the victims. Anyone and everyone in their right mind knows what allegedly took place by Jerry Sandusky and the truly inept follow-through by the administration in this whole ordeal was (and still is) awful. Use whatever adjective you like: appalling, horrific, distressing – there is no shortage. Media types everywhere are trying to one-up each other on how truly outraged one can sound over it. And they’re right – it’s all of those words and more – and each one of those victims and their families deserve nothing but our utmost support, our prayers and, yes, justice – however it may come.

What the victims deserved was to not be victims in the first place. If someone had stepped in years ago, the number of victims would be far less.

We feel the same way as you all do – we feel sick when we think of the actions. We cringe when we read the Grand Jury Report. Our anger probably goes a lot deeper than yours, to be honest, and I’ll explain why in a minute.

No, not all Penn State students and alumni feel like you do, as evidenced by the miscreants who tipped the news truck, threw rocks, and demanded that JoPa be  returned to his job. Not to mention the proud fans who physically and verbally assaulted this Penn State alum who protested outside of Beaver Stadium.

 Let’s also not forget this – this is not about football. We are not just trying to “protect a football coach”. When people criticize us for calling it a sad day because Paterno was fired, we don’t mean because we’re going to miss his fantastic football strategies. We’re going to miss the man who did so much good for the university and, ultimately, for us – because Penn State doesn’t become Penn State without him. It’s also a sad day because his firing serves as just another reminder of how awful this situation is and how much of a widespread impact Sandusky’s alleged actions have (and, for the record, even having to type “alleged” is annoying regarding Sandusky).

What’s sad is that Paterno sat idle for nearly a decade allowing a predator to have access to the Penn State football program. Sandusky used these perks to lure his alleged victims in and used the locker room as a den for his activities.

Paterno’s legacy is, and will forever be, tarnished. But we, as a Penn State family, can’t simply toss aside all of the amazing things he did. He donated millions, was a fierce advocate for putting academics on the same level as, if not higher than, athletics (in times when few other programs ever did) and was a man many saw as a role model – and sought to be a better person because of him.

Yes, his departure was inevitable, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be sad that the man’s most disappointing inaction will now take him and all of his amazing efforts. No, we won’t rename the library he almost single-handedly funded. No, we won’t act like he didn’t stand for something amazing all those years to us, because it did lead us to be better people, regardless of how the story ended.

Here’s a legacy for you- Paterno standing idly by while Sandusky ushered young boys into the showers of the Penn State football building for another round of “horseplay”. While he was doing everything else you mentioned, he never gave a second thought to the possibility that his former assistant coach was a monster. The library is a small consolation to the lives allegedly ruined by Sandusky.

And no, we won’t stand by like he should be free of a guilty conscience. But this is where the media and everyone has lost sight of the big picture – and why our anger and disappointment may even be more than yours. This goes even bigger than Paterno. While the crosshairs seem to have been affixed to him, others have gone ignored. Graham Spanier, former president, was allowed to resign. Gary Schultz was allowed to step down back into retirement. Athletic director Time Curley has been allowed a leave and is still on the payroll (while the university pays his legal fees!). And, by all accounts, wide receivers coach Mike McQueary – the grad assistant who witnessed the most notorious of the incidents in the Grand Jury report – will be coaching on Saturday. None of these men deserve more than to have the same “fired” title next to each of their names. Semantics? Maybe, but how can you allow anything else to happen?

See that’s where you’re wrong. We want them all gone and probably many more once the full extent of the cover-up is exposed. And while we’re on the subject of McQueary, who kept him in the Penn State football program all the while knowing he was keeping his silence? That would be JoPa.

Our anger goes to the point of wondering how these men (and, for all we know until the facts come out, maybe others) have been able to slink off to the side while Paterno’s name is the only one truly being stamped on. They have all sullied the PSU name in their own way and yet, often, when listening to a broadcast, you won’t hear any of these names until 20, 30 minutes in. And don’t hold your breath waiting for Sandusky’s name, either.

We’re not pissed at the university president, the athletic director, or some low level assistant coach. We don’t expect courage from politicians, mid-level bureaucrats, or underlings.

But we expect more from Joe “Success with Honor” Paterno. We can debate  exactly what he could have done differently, but let’s agree that he should have done more than he did. And that’s the major disappointment.

The JoPa of myth would have grabbed Sandusky by the collar and kicked his ass out of the football building, then called the police. He would have sat down next to McQueary as he told the police what he witnessed.

The real JoPa hid behind explanations of how he had done everything required by law in the matter.

While Sandusky kept preying on little boys.

Say it isn’t so, Joe…Paterno Out at Penn State

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.