“The minute you think you’ve got it made, disaster is just around the corner.”
– Joe Paterno
Late former Penn State head coach Joe Paterno often compared retiring from football to death. Reminding those of late Alabama head coach Bear Bryant, whom Paterno idolized Bryant and was his most worthy competitor and acquaintance.
Bryant, whom coached the Crimson Tide for over 25 season’s, famously stated after his final game, that he would “croak in a week”, when asked what he would do now that he was retired.
Bryant died less than 4 weeks after, after passing a routine medical examination.
Joe Paterno was Penn State. Penn State fired Joe Paterno. Many knew that Paterno (85yrs old) wouldn’t have much time after football, much like Bear Bryant.
Penn State decided to fire Paterno anyway, damage control following the blowup of a scandal unlike the University had ever seen. Trustees have since cited that Paterno was fired for failing to adhere to a moral obligation to do more in reporting the 2002 allegation.
Not that Joe broke a rule, committed an NCAA infraction (which Penn State was prided for in over 40+ season’s under coach Paterno, was that they never were disciplined by the NCAA for breaking rules. Something the NCAA will look into amid the failure to report allegations.), or that he was even directly involved with the alleged abuse that had taken place.
The then 70yr old just didn’t do enough. Morally.
As if the organization wasn’t aware that Paterno would suffer great stress over the spotlight and publicity of the scandal, they decided to publicly scarlet letter the University idol.
Penn State turned their back, ostracizing an ailing old man for the media and critics to eat at like vultures in the desert – to a man – Penn State’s treatment of the man who deserved the benefit of the doubt, was as pestilential to Paterno’s death as the lung cancer that took him from this earth.
Lung cancer killed Joe Paterno, but many say he died of a broken heart. Who is responsible for that broken heart? Jerry Sundusky? The Penn State University Board of Trustees? Or the media who covered this scandal like none that of any other event in history, directly attributing Joe Paterno to the events by association.
Paterno built the Penn State brand on the principles of “Success and Honor”, a valor in which Paterno’s team’s enjoyed much success and with much honor. Many friends and former colleagues feel that there were other mitigating factors that played apart of Joe’s death, outside of the lung cancer that will show up on his death certificate.
Mickey Shuler, former Penn State tight end under Joe Paterno held his alma mater accountable in what will echo many statements to come following this tragedy around State College,
“I don’t think that the Penn State that he helped us to become and all the principles and values and things that he taught were carried out in the handling of his situation,” he said.
Unfortunately, that was not the way in which Paterno was treated. It is also to be noted that Joe Paterno had more in his life than just football, as he so eloquently mentioned in an interview in which he was being comparative to his close confidant Bear Bryant,
“There isn’t anything in my life anymore except my family and my football. I think about it all the time.”
Joe’s family was his closest safety net. His wife, and five children, all Penn State graduates were extremely close knit. The shock of the scandal and ultimate firing of Paterno weighed heavily on the family as a whole.
No matter how you shake it, Joe Paterno did exactly what the Penn State wanted him to do according to all rules and doctrine erected by the institution. Report the incident to the highest authority under PSU guidelines. He did that. He lost his job, then he died.
For that Penn State University, for shame. Regardless of what “moral” obligation he did or didn’t uphold, what he gave and what he sacrificed to build Penn State on what it is today, the trustees should all be ashamed of themselves.
Although there was a push to oust Paterno in 2004 that was thwarted by a 11-1 season, and ultimately an Orange Bowl defeat of the Bobby Bowden Florida State Seminoles, Paterno was owed more support than the university gave him.
“As I See It”, Penn State University played the most instrumental part in the broken-heart Joe Paterno suffered sequentially leading to his death. And for I charge the Penn State Board of Trustee’s, who tried to cover their own butts, save some public relations, and ultimately “save the university” – with criminally negligent manslaughter, a form of murder.
“Criminally negligent manslaughter – occurs where there is an omission to act when there is a duty to do so, or a failure to perform a duty owed, which leads to a death. The existence of the duty is essential because the law does not impose criminal liability for a failure to act unless a specific duty is owed to the victim. It is most common in the case of professionals who are grossly negligent in the course of their employment. An example is where a doctor fails to notice a patient’s oxygen supply has disconnected and the patient dies“