I am, without question, a college football fan. I have never particularly been a fan of, or closely followed, Penn State, and I am not among those who have until recently idolized Penn State coach Joe Paterno. I am most definitely among those who are now horrified by the revelations about child sex abuse within the Penn State football program by former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.
Paterno has announced that he will retire at the end of the current season. The coach has said that he is "devastated," that the case is a "tragedy" and that he wants to finish this season with "dignity and determination." He also stated that he wishes that he had done more in 2002 when he found out about Sandusky's behavior.
Paterno's regret and remorse is understandable, but it is not enough. I read a portion of the text of the Grand Jury indictment of Sandusky. You can read it here. I want to be clear: this is an excruciating, disturbing document that describes in graphic detail Sandusky's sexual assaults of eight young victims, all boys under the age of 15.
What is clear to me is that the whole chain of command at Penn State, from the graduate assistant who witnessed Sandusky's rape of a boy in a locker room shower on campus, to athletic director Tim Curley, to university Vice President Gary Schultz, and, yes, Joe Paterno, failed in their moral obligations to make sure that Sandusky not have the opportunity to assault any more young boys.
It has been pointed out that Joe Paterno followed the letter of the law by informing his superior, Mr. Curley, when the 2002 rape was brought to his attention. But it is clear that Paterno failed to follow up on the incident. Any reasonable person, informed of such a monstrous act going on almost right under his nose, being committed by a person who he interacts with on a daily basis, would not only report the act, but would take upon himself or herself the responsibility to make sure that such a thing never happened again.
Joe Paterno did not accept this responsibility.
He should never coach another college football game. The powers that be at Penn State should see to it that the coach is given a choice: resign immediately, or be fired.
Furthermore, if Coach Paterno is allowed to finish the season, then the schools on the remainder of Penn State's schedule should take a courageous step: refuse to play the Nittany Lions if Paterno is present as head coach. If the authorities at Penn State refuse to make clear that there is no tolerance at their institution for anyone who helps, in even the smallest way, to cover up child rape, then the rest of the schools that make up the NCAA should do the right thing, even if it means taking a forfeit.