New Castle News

Penn State Scandal

January 25, 2012

Penn State’s tragedy compounded by the death of Joe Paterno

NEW CASTLE — The news from State College seemingly couldn’t get any worse, but then came word of Joe Paterno’s death.

The legendary coach of the Nittany Lions died over the weekend, after being hospitalized for complications from recently diagnosed lung cancer. But more than a few observers have suggested the real cause of death was a broken heart.

That may not be an official medical finding, but one wonders about the toll the Jerry Sandusky scandal took on Paterno and his overall health. It’s difficult to envision what impact was felt by a man who lived and breathed Penn State football for more than four decades, only to have the whole thing ripped away from him.

As we have said previously, no one ever would have imagined that Paterno’s tenure at Penn State would end the way it did — fired by the board of trustees after members decided he didn’t do enough when he first heard allegations Sandusky had been seen sexually abusing a child on campus.

Paterno expressed regrets in that regard, and there is some dispute about how much he was told in relation to Sandusky. But most observers agree that Paterno should have done more.

That particular failing, however, should not wipe out Paterno’s legacy at Penn State. And we’re not just referring to his record as the winningest coach in college history.

Paterno was an advocate for ensuring his players received real educations and obtained degrees. And while he was well paid as a coach, his generosity was widely known. He and his family gave back to the university, continuing that tradition even after he was dismissed.

Penn State and its alumni are now grappling with a range of emotions, compounded by Paterno’s death. We presume more pressure will be placed on the university’s board of trustees, with Paterno’s supporters demanding that members step down. That may be an appropriate part of clearing the air at Penn State, but it won’t alter the past or prevent a future with even more pain as the institution deals with the aftermath of the Sandusky scandal.

After all, Sandusky’s prosecution will proceed, and the young people identified as his victims will pursue civil cases against the university and individuals accused of failing to take aggressive actions against Sandusky. The pain at Penn State will persist.

Meanwhile things won’t be the same with its storied football program. A new coach takes over, but he will operate in the shadow of a giant. Joe Paterno may be gone, but he won’t be forgotten.

And we think his achievements will outshine his shortcomings.

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Penn State Scandal
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