Penn State & Joe Paterno: The Continued Lie of Hiding Behind Process

Penn State & Joe Paterno: The Continued Lie of Hiding Behind Process

Everyone has heard about what's going on at Penn State. On Tuesday, the university cancelled Joe Paterno's weekly press conference when it became clear that the media was going to (rightfully) approach the coach like a pack of wolves. He is one of the most powerful and respected coaches in college athletics, but it appears his legacy will be forever tarnished because of his lack of action on the charges against his longtime assistant.

What we're seeing in Happy Valley is the latest in a long line of ridiculously naive actions by individuals that have hid behind the lie of process.

Earlier in the year, Ohio State's head football coach, Jim Tressel, was relieved of his duties after there was evidence that he wasn't honest with the NCAA about some of his players. There were issues with players that, allegedly, Tressel knew about and failed to properly report to the NCAA and the university. Why is Tressel unemployed? Based on his comments between the Buckeyes' bowl game and his termination, he believed he was following "the appropriate course of action." And that process somehow involved lying to his employer and the NCAA.

Was Tressel's inability to appropriately process a federal investigation on the same level as what is going on at Penn State? Hell no! Free tattoos are nowhere close to the same as raping children.

But the actions taken by Tressel and Paterno when given delicate, important, deal-breaking information are too similar. And too common.

When did "tell someone else and stick your head in the sand" become an ethical option?

There are programs all over the NCAA that are being put on probation while coaches claim to be above reproach. Pete Carroll bailed on USC before probation hit their football program. John Calipari has now left two universities in ruins, and vacated more wins than many active coaches have "really" achieved. And yet both claimed to know nothing of the so-called infractions, or the damage they might cause their universities. Again, they let the "process" take its course.

Go ahead and call me an idealist. I'll take it. But I played college football and went through, albeit on a much, MUCH smaller scale, a recruiting process. And I have two sons that might, God-willing, be recruited to play a sport at the college level. How are parents supposed to look any coach in the eye and believe the sales presentation called recruiting now that two coaches who, 12 months ago, were considered among the most honorable in their profession will be unemployed because they failed to handle the truth?

Here's a novel idea: do the right thing.

If someone broke the law, tell someone. I'm not naive enough to think that there isn't a legal process that needs to work itself out when something like what happened at Penn St. takes place. But not telling the proper authorities (read: legal, not university)? And thinking, somehow, that was an acceptable course of action?

There is only one thing that Tressel, Carroll, Calipari and Paterno have in common: their inability to do the right thing. The degree to which any of the four will publicly admit to knowing anything differs from one coach to the next, but each had illegal actions taking place under their watch and they failed to take appropriate action.

The biggest difference between Paterno and the other three names is that Paterno is a Hall of Famer. Watching Matt Millen break down on Sportscenter was awful, because clearly he was forced to digest his world view being shattered in front of a live television audience. There aren't many individuals that have done as much to help a university as Paterno has for Penn St. But now, all of the millions of dollars he has raised to help that school will be overshadowed. His inability to separate the university and football program from a potential backlash from handling this issue appropriately appears to be what ends his career.

Paterno isn't the first, and, sadly, won't be the last coach to claim he didn't know better then concealing information. He isn't the only coach to claim that he was taking what he believed to be the proper course of action while neglecting the ethical, moral route. As long as vital information is allowed to matriculate its way up, or down, a food chain before reaching the right ears, there will continue to be scandals, individuals embarrassed and legacies destroyed because the "process" is broken.

At some point, doing the right thing will need to come back to being what coaches believe to be the proper course of action.

I hope.

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    Dear Idiot Writer,

    Calipari has been investigated several times over these issues. The NCAA found he had NO KNOWLEDGE of what was going on.

  • In reply to Philip Acree:

    He just so happened to leave two programs in ruins... this isn't rocket science, Philip. Common denominator btw UMass & Memphis is....?

  • In reply to Tab Bamford:

    Do your research Tab. Yes, the common denominator being he was the coach at those times, but that's the easy answer. Calipari had NOTHING to do with Camby taking money from an agent while Camby was at home away from Umass during the summer break. Camby has since owned up to his major mistake, repayed UMass for financial loss and taken full responsibility. Derrek Rose was cleared to play by the NCAA. You have to admit the NCAA decision on Rose and Memphis was bizarre. As for leaving programs in ruins, UMass was nothing before Calipari and Memphis seems to be doing better than ok right now. Facts. They are troublesome things aren't they?

  • In reply to Tab Bamford:

    Common denominator is high profile young players, the kind that Calipari sculpts into NBA stars, who made stupid decisions. The NCAA HATES John Calipari. Just like you. They've launched numerous investigations into his programs and every time an actual infraction was found, it was in no way linked to John Calipari. An agent paid a player. How is that John Calipari's fault? A kid cheated on his SAT, how does that not fall on the compliance office of the school, and the NCAA which cleared him in the first place. Your baseless and unresearched accusations are borderline defamatory.

  • Tab,
    Just want to point out that all of the coaches that you were referring to other than Paterno covered up NCAA infractions. They were not covering up illegal actions. Paterno and the rest of the Penn State staff that knew, were covering up illegal actions.

  • In reply to dkm72:

    Please read the entire column. Specifically the 11th paragraph, that begins with:

    "There is only one thing that Tressel, Carroll, Calipari and Paterno have in common: their inability to do the right thing."

  • In reply to dkm72:

    Calipari NEVER covered up anything illegal, but of course that's what poorly researched writers such as Tab want you to believe.

  • Understand and point taken, just in the way that I read it, specifically at the end of the 11th paragraph, "but each had illegal actions taking place under their watch and they failed to take appropriate action.", it appears that you are saying that they all have had something illegal happen under their watch. In my thoughts illegal is something against the law, not an infraction of an organizations rules. In my opinion it would be like saying RR was doing something illegal when he had Michigan practice to long, instead of saying that he broke the NCAA rules for practice time.

  • In reply to dkm72:

    Rules were broken while each of the four was in charge of a program. Each failed to act appropriately. That's the point.

  • In reply to Tab Bamford:

    Please explain where Calipari had the "inability to do the right thing" and how that even compares to Paterno? Give me a break. People like you who write that crap are no better than the type of person you criticize. What "right thing" should Calipari have done? Rather than lob accusations, explain what actually occured under his watch and how Calipari should have acted differently? Facts.

  • Excellent article, Tab Bamford.

    You are one of the few who mentions Paterno's failure in "doing the right thing" without including the caveat of "but he was/is a great coach.just the same . . ."

    Baloney. The man made himself into an icon of "honor" in his position as head coach and he is a fraud. He talked & acted a good facsimile for 40+ years, but it never reached the core of who Paterno is - or he never would have acted as he did when McQueary came to him in 2002.

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