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Joe Paterno's retirement necessary

By J.V. Siegel
On November 8, 2011

Penn State coach Joe Paterno

Joe Paterno's retirement necessary

Joe Paterno, college football's winningest coach, is retiring—it was absolutely necessary.

For those not familiar with Paterno's work, he is the man who has been coaching at Pennsylvania State University for 45 years.

You read that correctly. He took over in 1966, just as the Vietnam War was escalating, just as the hippie movement was sweeping the nation, and a year before the first Super Bowl took place.

During these 45 years, Paterno has solidified himself as a legend; not only in the football world, but as a teacher and humanitarian. He has sent more than 350 players to the NFL, and is widely considered a pioneer in furthering the brand that now is football.

But he needs to go. Now.

Paterno's former defensive coordinator (and future coach-in-waiting at Penn State…everyone assumed Paterno would have retired by now), Jerry Sandusky, who was with Paterno from 1970-1999, was charged with molesting eight boys over a course of 15 years.

Sandusky retired after the 1999 season in order to run The Second Mile, a children's charity which he has been involved with since 1977.

After Sandusky was charged with these crimes, Senior Vice President Gary Schultz and Athletic Director Tim Curley were also charged with failing to report suspected child-sexual abuse and perjury.

While Paterno was not charged with anything, and has not been implicated as a part of what appears to be a conspiracy, Paterno allowed an alleged child-molester free-run of his campus until as recently as last week. The writing had been on the wall for years. Sandusky had been bringing children around the team during his final years as defensive coordinator for Paterno. It may have seemed innocent, as Sandusky ran a children's charity. But spending the night in Sandusky's hotel room? Sleepovers with the children?

According to the grand jury report, a mother of one of the children that Sandusky had "befriended" complained to police in 1998 that her son had showered with Sandusky. Later, a campus security officer overheard the mother asking Sandusky if he had touched her son inappropriately. Sandusky responded, "I don't know…maybe."

Jerry Sandusky had been aware of the impending charges for over three years, according to his lawyer. Yet he still continued to be associated with the university, as well as his children's charity. Sandusky's service to the university cannot be overlooked, and certainly was not by the university, despite the complaints and accusations that had been flying since before Sandusky retired as a coach in 1999.

To this point, Paterno, who is quite old in his own right, could plead ignorance, and has done so. But in 2002, according to the grand jury report, a graduate assistant to the football team walked in on Sandusky molesting a boy "whose age he [the graduate assistant] estimated to be ten years old." Mortified, the graduate student met with Paterno the next day. Paterno then reported what the assistant had told him to his boss, Tim Curley, the Athletic Director, who was later charged with lying to a grand jury by saying that he had not been told the event was sexual…when that was exactly what he been told.

Paterno has been one of the most important people to not only football, but higher education as a whole. He is revered by several communities, as he should for his accomplishments. Because of his involvement, or lack-of involvement, with stopping an alleged child-molester, or at least disassociating the university with him, Paterno does not deserve the right to retire when he pleases.

Paterno prides himself on not just being a football coach, but a molder-of young men. He needs to recognize that because he was at the helm when all of these events were happening, he is responsible for it. It is improbable that Paterno will face any legal action, as he technically did what he was supposed to do and fully cooperated with the Grand Jury. But he did nothing to press the issue, and did not question Sandusky or limit his access to the school and the football program. In fact, Sandusky even promised one of his victims a spot on the football team as a walk-on.

As a father, coach and educator, Coach Paterno certainly recognizes how grave the situation at hand is. Out of respect for the parents, the victims, and university he has served so loyally for so long, it's good he's stepping down. It's time.

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