Thursday, November 10, 2011

Penn State fires Paterno

I made a passing mention of the Penn State situation in the last post, and with the developments of Wednesday, here's a little more.

The Penn State Board of Trustees fired Head Coach Joe Paterno on Wednesday night. The Board making the move, along with removing President Graham Spanier in one swoop. To me, this is the first of many removals from within the football program.

The shake-up has fans of the team unhappy, saying Paterno had done what was required of him, in reporting what he was told to his superiors. That much is absolutely true. He reported it to those above him.

He wasn't fired for that. He was fired for not doing more.

I made the comparison on Twitter last night (, that Paterno ends up being the real-life equivalent of the two Marines in the film "A Few Good Men." I forget their rank in the movie, but Downey and Dawson (movie spoiler coming) end up being dishonorably discharged from the Marines for "conduct unbecoming of a United States Marine." In the confusion of the verdict, Dawson explains why they were kicked out. It was because, in his movie line, "we were supposed to fight for those who can't fight for themselves. We were supposed to fight for Willie."

Paterno didn't fight for the children, alleged to have been sexually assaulted by former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. That was Paterno's undoing in all this. Paterno wielded more power at Penn State than many would believe, and as a result, when he saw that things weren't being taken care of in the legal system, he should have stepped up the pressure. He should have taken a more active role in seeing that the law got involved.

Instead, he likely felt he had done enough, and carried on, and the school's decision was their decision. In the end, that was the wrong tack to take.

Paterno is not the victim here. Some would say that since he didn't do more, he could actually be viewed as complicit. I'm not sure about that, but I find it hard for folks to defend Paterno and say he shouldn't have been fired. Fact is, anyone at Penn State that had connections to Sandusky, or even had some whisper knowledge of the incidents should be gone as well.

This situation, however, is not about football players, or games, wins or losses, and final scores. This whole thing started when one adult allegedly preyed on young boys, and allegedly committed crimes that are simply unimaginable to me.

There are failures at many levels of this story. Paterno may not have committed the crimes, but he simply couldn't be allowed to stay on his capacity. As the Nittany Lions Head Coach, Paterno was nearly identical to Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. When people think of Duke, they think Coach K. When people think of Penn State, they would think of Paterno.

Those days are officially over, as Penn State's image has taken a monumental hit. How the school recovers from this all is anybody's guess.

Mike Solarte

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