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Paterno's legacy: Tarnished or admirable?

Jay Garneau:

College football lost one of its biggest coaching legends on Sunday morning. Penn State's Joe Paterno lost his battle with lung cancer at age 85.

The positive impact Paterno had on both the Penn State football program and college football as a whole is undeniable. But the final months of his life were marred with controversy.

When alerted of Jerry Sandusky's alleged sexual abuse of a child in the team's locker room, Paterno decided the best move was to pass the information on to athletic director Tim Curley and then-school vice president Gary Schultz.

None of the three alerted authorities, breaking Pennsylvania law. Many people believe that Paterno's decision not to take more aggressive behavior against Sandusy and his child abuse puts a lot of the blame on his shoulders.

G. Brady Selhorst:

The fact that Paterno could have, and should have, done more about the Sandusky situation is inevitable. Being the most powerful figure on campus, Penn State's heralded coach had a great opportunity to stop a monster and save many children who fell victim to Sandusky's villainous acts over the past 10 years.

But he didn't. He simply scolded Sandusky and told him to stop bringing children around the Penn State football facilities. He was essentially saying to his long-time friend, I don't care what you do, just don't involve me.

Paterno's loyalty toward a friend overcame his humanity. It is a very unfortunate situation considering his entire career at Penn State was built on doing things the right way: graduating players, winning with class and exhibiting sportsmanship in all areas of the game.

Paterno simply was caught in a serious dilemma that was much greater than a football contest, and he did not know exactly how to handle it.

College football's most iconic figure will now always be remembered with a blemish that covers his 409 wins and two championship titles. There will never be a documentary on Joe Pa that ends with anything other than the tragic scandal of Jerry Sandusky.

Paterno did not ask to be put in the position he was put in, but he was there and his legacy will be forever tarnished because of his silence when helpless children needed his voice.


Should Paterno have done more? Absolutely. But he is far from being the one person who blame should be placed upon.

He didn't remain stagnant; he alerted several superiors, and each of them had just as much opportunity to do something about it. Curley also oversaw the campus police at the time, and still neglected to look further into it or hand the issue over to higher powers.

Paterno's credentials absolutely cannot, and will not, be ignored. He is the winningest coach all-time in Division I football, tallying 409 career wins. He holds the record for most bowl wins too, winning 24 of the 37 bowls he coached Penn State in.

More importantly though, he held his football program to high standards, both on the field and in the classroom. He impacted thousands of lives, with the majority of people preaching that their time with and around Paterno and the football program made them better human beings.

Paterno taught them responsibility and accountability, and upheld those same standards himself for most of his career. Unfortunately, when he heard that Sandusky was "horsing around" with a boy in the shower, he wasn't as responsible or as accountable as he wanted his players to be when it mattered most.


So, Jay, we both agree that Paterno did not do all he possibly could in the situation and that will forever harm his legacy. But, the question here is what will he forever be remembered MORE for?

For us, and most others in our generation, it will be impossible to forget the shocking turn of events in Paterno's life. Whether it was his fault or not, the fact that he was even associated with Sandusky's scandal is enough for this generation of sports fans to always remember him with some negative background.

That being said, all that Paterno did will not be erased by this sad event. Deep down, college football fans know that Joe Pa stood for more than this one mistake, and that is what will be passed along to future generations.

In short, for the time being, the legendary Nittany Lion will be tarnished because of the magnitude of the allegations brought against him and his program. All that matters is that eventually the sex scandal will diminish from today's hot news topics and from Joe Pa's legacy entirely.

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