The Paterno Statement We Didn’t Get

Joe Paterno got fired last night (Nov. 9) by the Penn State board of trustees. According to a recent grand jury report, in 2002 the legendary college football coach had been notified of sexual activity in a Penn State locker room between former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky and a boy estimated to be 10 years old, and Paterno in turn notified Penn State’s athletic director, but not the police. Sandusky would not be arrested on multiple sexual abuse charges until Nov. 5, 2011.

There was no way Penn State could have allowed Paterno to step onto the field this Saturday as coach of the football team. To do so would have sent a message that Penn State was merely taking the next step in a pattern of inaction and delay, and that football continues to be more important than the victimization and abuse of children.

So this was not a brave decision by the board of trustees—it was the only option.

Actually, there was one other option—convincing Paterno to quit. Did the board of trustees try to get him to step aside and make a statement that his thoughts are with Sandusky’s victims and not with his players and therefore he is not able to continue as coach? Perhaps.

Whether or not the trustees made such an appeal, if Paterno had taken it upon himself to make such a statement the clear message sent would have been that what matters most right now is the victims and correcting the institutional lapses that allowed Sandusky to prey on the innocent. The students of Penn State would have understood.

—Steve Goldstein


  • Colleen Reynolds

    Agreed that he couldn’t be in his position any longer. Disagree with the way it was handled. The guys who are actually being investigated are on administrative leave! The guy who saw it happening and instead of jumping in and stopping it,will be on the sidelines. The guy with the big name, the questionable knowledge, who is not being investigated gets fired. Wrong move Penn State.

  • sgoldstein

    Colleen–I will be very surprised if McQueary is on the sidelines this Saturday. Expect an announcement about him taking a leave of absence before we get to game time. And there’s always the chance that Penn State will cancel the rest of the football season. It’s within the realm of possibility.

  • Tim Meyer

    Couldn’t agree more. Well said.

  • Charles Hodges

    Steve, I would be shocked if Penn St. canceled its remaining games. Too much money is at stake, and none of the legal allegations involve current football staff or players, unless you want to count moral lapses in judgement. No need to punish the innocent. Also, say what you will about McQueary — and I’m sure most of us have a lot we would like to say about his gutless failure to immediately take actions to protect an innocent child in the process of being molested — I believe he may be entitled to protection under the Whistleblower Law, which prevents public employees from having their jobs threatened following a “good-faith report” of wrongdoing, which he apparently did. Once he made his report, I don’t believe there was anything else he could do except assume the proper authorities would investigate and take appropriate actions (which should have been immediate firing and police action against Sandusky). Even if he had later asked school officials for an update, it is likely they could not have provided any information due to privacy laws. Why he didn’t confront Sandusky — even after the fact — about the horrific act is open to another debate. I’m amazed he could actually report to work every day as if nothing had happened. I would love to hear any legal opinions on what the school can or can’t do about McQueary’s employment status. Firing, reassignment, paid leave of absence?

  • sgoldstein

    Charles: I’d be shocked too. But I was imagining the furthest Penn State could go to deal with this, and that popped into my head–canceling the rest of the season. Unlikely, but it’s probably been discussed. Regarding McQueary, I think he’s going to take it upon himself to sit out the rest of the season–that’ll be the way it’ll be portrayed.

  • Joseph

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  • Drew Evans

    I believe this article was well thought out in a PR manner. I agree with the fact that Paterno should have chosen to quit rather than be fired. It gives him a slightly more respectable and dignified way to go out rather than being told to leave after all of his years at Penn State. And while I don’t like seeing him get fired, I also agree that not allowing Paterno to stay was the only choice Penn State had. The school would be looked down upon if they had allowed him to resume coaching after these allegations.