There are three things that usually come to mind when Pennsylvania State University is referenced in conversation: football, Joe Paterno (JoePa), and ice cream (ok, maybe I’m the only one who thinks of the latter but it really is the best stuff on earth, and I’m sure even Ben and Jerry would admit that!).
I am the proud daughter of two Penn State alumni and the sister of a current junior at the school. Growing up my parents dressed us up in “My First Penn State” sweaters and they have several pictures of us over the years posing with the lion. Now that my sister is at main campus we have been lucky enough to get tickets to a couple of home games each year, and I have always rooted for them in NCAA competition (it helps that my alma mater, American, doesn’t have a football team). Essentially, while I may not have attended Penn State I feel just as attached to the university as the rest of my family actually is.
So when the allegations of child molestation against former Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky came out over the weekend I, like the rest of the members of Penn State nation, was heartbroken. I feel sick to my stomach about what these victims must be feeling right now, and if the allegations are true I hope that Sandusky is locked up for life and kept as far away from children as humanely possible.
Of course the media is spinning the story differently, however, and as a result unjustly tarnishing the legacy the greatest person to ever be affiliated with the university – Joseph Vincent Paterno. Paterno, who has helmed the team for nearly 45 years, prides himself on the positive, timeless reputation that he built for the university. After all, Nittany Lion faithful were enraged earlier this year when the university removed white trim from the team’s uniforms!
The media is hitting Paterno for his actions after being told by a graduate assistant in 2002 of an incident involving Sandusky. JoePa was not given all of the details of the incident, and reported everything he knew to the athletic director at the time, Tim Curley, as Sandusky was no longer employed by the university. (Curley was arraigned today for his part in the coverup)
Throughout the entire investigation JoePa has been cooperating with law enforcement and even earlier today the Commonwealth’s Attorney General exonerated him of any wrongdoing. So why is the media still trying to bring him down? I’ve seen everything from calls for JoePa to resign (and a subsequent list of replacements) from The Philadelphia Inquirer to finger-pointing at JoePa in The Washington Post and The New York Times. Fox News’s Megyn Kelly even devoted today’s edition of “Kelly’s Court” to whether JoePa’s actions were “ethically” right.
JoePa may be one of my heroes, but if he did something wrong I would be the first person to knock him for that. With that said, it is an absolute shame that he is being put through the ringer for his former colleagues’ actions – actions for which he had no control over. I’m going to close this rant with part of JoePa’s statement on the allegations, since it appears that he is the only one thinking clearly in this mess.
“I understand that people are upset and angry, but let’s be fair and let the legal process unfold. In the meantime I would ask all Penn Staters to continue to trust in what that name represents, continue to pursue their lives every day with high ideals and not let these events shake their beliefs nor who they are.”