The Pennsylvania State University deserves better. By that first sentence you might think I’m of the majority opinion that Nittany Lion head football coach Joe Paterno got what he deserved Wednesday evening by being terminated by his employer of 61 years. Well let me correct you, I’m not.
When I say Penn State deserves better, I mean its students, faculty, alumni and fans deserve better leadership and I’m talking all the way at the top. The university’s Board of Trustees need to relinquish their positions immediately and give way to a group of leaders who can sensibly lead one of the nation’s top public universities.
I learned Wednesday evening that the face of the university, the man that built not just the school’s football program, but the school itself, was fired by the university’s so-called leaders. Not only was Joe Paterno fired; he was fired over the telephone.
Lets forget for a moment the utter lack of respect by firing a man over the telephone and look at the man Joe Paterno is.
Coach Paterno began working at Penn State in 1950, as an assistant for the coach he played under at Brown University. At the time it was a small Pennsylvania college with an endowment of next to nothing. Paterno took over as head coach 15 years later and immediately turned the program into a national powerhouse. At the same time though the university grew, as did its academic standards. This was helped by Paterno’s focus on education, putting an emphasis on the student in student-athlete.
Paterno never asked for millions of dollars, just a modest pay. He wanted to have a positive impact on the young men that came through his program and see them graduate. Sadly after 61 years of loyal service, Paterno was removed from his job by a modern day lynch mob.
It is easy to join a lynch mob. Like it or not (and I know most of you will not) that is what this has become over the past four days, a lynch mob of the general public calling for a man to be fired. Why? Because he didn’t go to the authorities with some level of information regarding child molestation by a former assistant coach. The problem is we don’t know what that level of information he was given.
Lets make sure we remember Joe Paterno was not part of a cover up. The claim amongst his distractors is that he didn’t do enough. That really depends entirely on what he was told, information that again, we have never received!
It is always easy to sit back and say what someone should or should not have done. Hindsight is as they say, 20/20. But not knowing the details of what a man was told and then judging what that man should have done with that information is just plain wrong. It isn’t our place to judge in the first place, but if we are judging and we’re doing it without knowing the entire picture, something has gone terribly wrong.
That is what happened here. The public, influenced by the media, cried out for a man to be relieved of his duties based off of a lack of information. Millions of opinions based on nothing but ignorance. The only thing worse than that was Wednesday evening the Board of Trustees at The Pennsylvania State University joined in. They grabbed the pitchfork and torch and went after Joe Paterno. Well, they did it over the telephone at least.
It is incredibly sickening to me to see Americans act like this. One of the great things about this country is suppose to be that we don’t rush into irrational decisions. We have state of mind in which we can wait to gather necessary information to make a rational decision. At the very least Joe Paterno deserved a rational decision, but we couldn’t even give him that.
So now that you all have got your man, put down your pitchforks and torches and go home. When you get there, I ask that you look in the mirror and think about what you have done. You just ended the career of a man who built an entire university, positively affected the lives of thousands of men and did it all the right way and for the right reasons.
Don’t tell me “what about the victims?” Yes we should all pray for the victims, I feel horrible for what happened to them and I promise you Joe Paterno does as well. But that is not what this is about. This is about what is right and what is wrong and people taking something that is wrong that will make them feel better and labeling it as something that is right.
There is something that we were all taught as children: two wrongs do not make a right. This was a wrong and everyone who contributed to it needs to realize that.
Penn State deserves better. Joe Paterno deserved better.
by Chad Haynie, Sports Director, Host of The Student Section – Thursdays from 6 – 8 p.m.