If you need to be told what The Story of the Week has been, you've not only been out of the country but just plain out of it. As in asleep.
The head football coach at Penn State, Joe Paterno, is the winningest coach in 1A college football, And he had a near-saintly reputation to go with that distinction. But this week he announced he'd be retiring at the end of the year in the wake of a particularly appalling scandal. It was one that involved the team's defensive coordinator, young boys and higher-ups who ignored their duty. You could scarcely put together a more shameful story. Even in college athletics.
The coach's retirement, it turned out, was not an option. Not after one revelation followed another over the course of the week. Instead, both the legendary coach and the university's president were fired outright. Mentor, father figure and national role model Joe Paterno had failed in all those respects. After 61 years on Penn State's coaching staff, 45 of them as head coach. And then this.
Let us take solace in this much: Apparently, there is still a university in the country that takes its responsibility seriously. And expects its officials to do the same -- even its top officials. No buy-outs, no self-serving explanations, no twisting-and-weaving board of trustees. But just The End.
They do things decisively at Penn State, which speaks well of them. There was no other alternative, at least no other honorable alternative. Not in the wake of a growing scandal in which the team's former defensive coordinator was accused of molesting young boys. Even on campus. Eight boys in 15 years at last outrageous count. He's accused of trawling for them through a charitable foundation for at-risk kids. Some act of charity.
Prosecutors say that, back in 2002, an eyewitness to one of the attacks passed the word up the chain, and JoePa was informed. The coach is said to have passed the word on. It was the least he could do. Literally. Never let it be said that, in this case, Joe Paterno didn't do the very least he could.
Now the head coach says that in hindsight he wishes he had done more. Like calling the cops, Coach? That would've been a good start.
The state's police commissioner put it well when he said "a football coach or a university president or the guy sweeping the building" has a moral duty to call in the police if he has reason to suspect a child is being sexually abused. Instead, Penn State had developed "a culture that did nothing to stop it or prevent it from happening to others." Shameful.
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