The Passing of a Legend

Today, the flags in Pennsylvania are flying at half-mast to mark the passing of Joe Paterno, Head Football Coach for Penn State University, who succumbed to lung cancer over the wekend.

A couple of months ago, when the furor erupted at Penn State over the Sandusky affair, my wife asked how long he had been coach there. Looking back, I could not remember any other head coach at Penn State for my entire football-watching life.

It turns out, Joe Paterno became a coach at Penn State the year before I was born. By the time I was fifteen he was the head coach of the team. And though I saw many different Notre Dame coaches over the years, Paterno remained at the helm at Penn State.

In many ways, it seemed a stabilizer in life, something one could always depend on: Paterno bringing out his boys onto the playing field.

Now, I hear many reports that his career is marred by the Sandusky affair. Though many people speak out and say he should have done more, I have worked for universities and know how their rules work in cases like this. It is passed up the chain of command to someone whose job it is to handle the incident. And that person usually has a legal background. Joe had a legal background as well and knew who to pass it along to.

I have known people working for universities who have gone to the legal authorities – or even the press – with rather explosive stories. They may be guided by a strong moral fiber but in most cases will find themselves fired and – in some cases arrested – for not following the rules.

Joe did what he knew to be the correct action. Unfortunately, the people he informed did not perform their due diligence in regards to the law. If Joe had taken further actions, he would have been in violation of his contract.

This is in no way implying that his contract was more important that the young people involved but there were systems in place to take care of such sensitive issues. That those higher up the food chain fell down is not a reflection on Paterno.

I do not think his legacy will be marred by the politicking of the people who should have been operating in the University’s best interests, rather than attempting some pre-emptive spin-control.

As someone once said about another legend years ago, “He now belongs to the ages.”

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One Response to “The Passing of a Legend”

  1. The Passing of a Legend - BallHyped, Other Sports | BallHyped Sports Blogs Says:

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