The Board of Trustees decided Wednesday night that Joe Paterno has to go and he has to go right now. The coach’s legendary 61-year tenure at Penn State University ended abruptly when he was fired as university officials scrambled desperately to preserve the reputation of the esteemed college in light of an incredible sex scandal that rocked the community and the nation. Paterno announced Wednesday morning that he would resign at the end of the season, but that wasn’t good enough. After all, the crux of the matter here is that Paterno knew about a terrible incident of child rape that occurred in the Penn State shower room in 2002. The perpetrator was Jerry Sandusky, Paterno’s assistant and long-time (over four decades, in fact) friend. What did he do? He reported the incident to the next person on the chain of command and went on about his business. Because the people above him on that chain of command did nothing, this cycle of abuse would go on for years and we now know includes over 19 more victims. To think it all could have stopped right there if Paterno and others had simply done the right thing. So, based on this lapse in moral judgment, the trustees at Penn State realized that it was insane to think of thousands of fans cheering Joe Paterno at his last home game with these implications hovering in the background.
There are some things in life that transcend all normal boundaries, and we feel that this incident represents one of them. Joe Paterno, and everyone else aware of what was going on, may not have had a legal, as in “I can be prosecuted for a criminal offense”, obligation, but they had a higher obligation that we all have to our fellow man. This is the obligation where they all failed miserably.
Shockingly enough, Penn State students piled into the streets to protest the decision. A clash with police soon followed, with bottles and rocks thrown by students at authorities. It even escalated to the point that a news van was tipped over. No information has surfaced about how many students were arrested, but it is safe to say there will be some data coming forward. From the outside world, the real question is what are these students really protesting. I think love for their legendary coach paired with intense frustration about the entire situation unfolding at their university probably is sparking the reaction. There is little reason to think things will get much better as the Nittany Lions head into the home game weekend without JoePa at the reigns.