National Columnist

As you read this, Paterno Era at Penn State should be done


STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- In hindsight, Joe Paterno is absolutely devastated. Those are his words today -- "absolutely devastated." And that's a start. It's a lot better than his actions Tuesday, when he was absolutely pleased to bask in the adulation of the Penn State students in his lawn.

If he had to do it all over again, Joe Paterno would have done more. Those also are his words -- "I wish I had done more." And that's a start. It's a lot more than he felt he should do in 2002, when he was told of an apparent sexual assault committed by former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky on a young boy within his football building. In 2002, Paterno didn't do very much. He literally did the legal minimum. He told his supervisor, and then he went on with his life.

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As did Jerry Sandusky.

Nine years later, the count of Sandusky's alleged victims has reached nine. There are reports that it could hit 20 or more. Joe Paterno didn't do that, no. But he didn't stop it either. That's why he says "I wish I had done more." And that's why he's "absolutely devastated."

And that's why he can't coach this Saturday. Or next Saturday. Or ever again.

We don't need hindsight to know that this cannot happen one more time, even if it would be one last time. This is Penn State's home finale, and Paterno announced Wednesday that he will retire at the end of the season, but that's not good enough. That's not good at all.

Paterno cannot be cheered by more than 100,000 people, which is what would happen Saturday. He cannot be idolized for three more hours. He cannot be upheld as a hero, as a paragon of virtue, as everything that is right about Penn State.

Because he is none of those things. Not anymore.

Today, Joe Paterno is part of the problem, part of a cowardly system that looked the other way for nine years as an alleged pedophile was roaming State College. More than that -- Sandusky was using the Penn State football offices as one of his home bases.

You going to celebrate that, Penn State? And you, Penn State fans?

Are you?


No. This cannot happen, and a growing part of me thinks it won't. A few days ago, that didn't seem possible. Joe Paterno has called the shots for decades. He has been untouchable, refusing to retire when he hit 65, then 70, then 75, even as his program -- back when he was into his upper 70s -- was scuffling along in mediocrity. He's untouchable, and that seemed to extend even to these horrific circumstances when his supervisor, athletics director Tim Curley, and vice president Gary Schultz were indicted on charges of not acting on that alleged assault in 2002 ... but Paterno was not.

Untouchable, even now. Even after this. That's how it looked until Wednesday morning, when Paterno announced he was resigning after this season. But even in making that announcement -- when he noted that he was "absolutely devastated" and that "I wish I had done more" -- Paterno tried to call the shots. He tried to tell the Penn State Board of Trustees to leave him alone, to let him exit on his terms.

Paterno said, "I have decided to announce my retirement effective at the end of this season. At this moment the Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status. They have far more important matters to address. I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can."

You catch the key line in there?

The Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status.

Because Paterno has already made that decision, see. He has always made the decisions regarding his football program, which could explain why his "bosses" didn't report Jerry Sandusky's alleged sexual assault in 2002 to police: If Paterno isn't reporting it to police, why would anyone else? It's his program, and Sandusky was his longtime assistant, and the alleged assault happened in his building. Paterno calls the shots. Subliminally, he called that one in 2002.

Which means someone else has to call this one, now. The Board of Trustees has been dared by Paterno to try -- just try -- to keep him from coaching Saturday. The Board of Trustees needs to call that bluff. The Board of Trustees needs to inform Paterno that he has served Penn State mostly well for 61 years, but that his one ethical lapse, perhaps his only ethical lapse, was of such a grievous nature that he cannot be allowed to lead this football team even once more.

In State College, Penn State students appear to fully support Paterno, missing the irony that the roughly 10-year-old kid in that alleged incident in 2002 would be a college student today. Maybe a Penn State student. Maybe that kid is a Penn State student. Nobody knows who he is, and if that's the way he wants it, I hope we never find out. His identity is his business, not ours.

But the irony is incredible. Penn State students have spent the past few days marching all over campus -- to Paterno's house, to the stadium and even to the campus nerve center, a beautiful building called Old Main. They have marched in support of Paterno. They believe he should coach this Saturday, and as long as he wants to coach. That's their position.

In less biased and more mature circles, the position is different. Paterno cannot coach Saturday, just as receivers coach Mike McQueary cannot coach Saturday, and PSU president Graham Spanier can't (and apparently won't) still be the school president Saturday, and the "on leave" AD, Tim Curley, shouldn't still have the make-believe option of returning to his office ever again. Anyone who knew about the allegations against Jerry Sandusky in 2002 -- a list that started with McQueary, who told Paterno, who told Curley -- cannot represent the school. Not in an official capacity.

Not ever again.

Paterno has thrown out his challenge:

The Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status.

And now I've thrown out mine:

Not one more day as head coach, BOT. Not for Joe Paterno. Call it a firing, call it a resignation, call it a retirement. Call it whatever you want.

But call it over.

Gregg Doyel is a columnist for He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.

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