Rarely do the worlds of sports, education, and morality collide in any real way. However, they have collided in Pennsylvania this week as Penn State University is embroiled in the the biggest scandal to hit college sports in at least a decade. Former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky has been charged with sexual abuse. That alone is not the story. The story is the cover up that ensued.
The New York Times is now reporting that legendary head coach Joe Paterno will be out as head coach as soon as this week. Whether it is because he is old, famous, or just been in the position for more than 40 years, the university is having a hard time pulling the trigger. Two university officials have already been forced to resign.
For those that don't follow football, Joe Paterno is the all-time leader in victories in what is now called the FBS division (formerly Division 1 A). He's won national championships, conference championships, and countless bowl games. Penn State got the nickname of "Linebacker U" because of the tough defenses that he had over the years. This is where Sandusky comes in.
Sandusky was Paterno's defensive coordinator for most of his tenure. Sandusky turned down numerous opportunities to to become a head coach in order to stay with Paterno. I'm sure part of him thought that Paterno would have retired a long time ago (he was the hand-picked heir apparent). I'm sure the other part was due to a sense of loyalty. Well, apparently that loyalty was rewarded.
According to leaked grand jury testimony (don't you love that), Sandusky was caught in the locker room by a graduate assistant. The graduate assistant immediately informed Paterno (according to testimony) and Paterno informed the athletic director and vice president of the university. Those individuals have stepped down because it came to light that none of them actually turned Sandusky in. Mind you, this happened back in 2002 and Sandusky is now finally being arrested.
This where education comes in. As employees of the university, the coaches and administrators actually serve in an educational capacity as well. Many coaches also teach a class or two to boost their salary. Mind you, they don't actually teach it themselves, but you get the idea. All educators are bound by law to immediately report abuse to the proper authorities. The athletic director doesn't count as a proper authority.
Thus, the university and Paterno himself continued a long standing tradition in the sports world. As long as you win and bring in the fans, those around you will look the other way when they have to. High schools do it all the time. They make sure the star athlete passes all of his classes and if he should get involved in some kind of scrape, they make sure he will be eligible anyway.
The problem is that not every coach does it. There are countless coaches that do things the right way. For more than forty years, Joe Paterno was seen as one of them. He was a shining example of how you could win and still do things the right way. He was a gentlemen among thieves, cheats, and charlatans. Now, he joins a long list of disgraced men that sacrificed their dignity and self-respect to spare a successful player or coach.
Ultimately, Penn State seems to be responding the right way. Anyone involved with this not only needs to be fired, but they need to be investigated themselves for any criminal negligence. Beating Michigan or Ohio State should never take precedence over the emotional and physical well being of a child. Anyone that thinks so needs to go back for some rewiring because they are receiving some heavy heavy interference on their moral antenna.