This past Saturday,Jerry Sandusky, former Penn State Assistant Coach, was arrested on forty (40) criminal counts. At the time of his arrest, there were eight (8) known underage victims, with a possible ninth coming forth this past Tuesday. The alleged incidents are spelled forth in the Grand Jury’s Findings of Fact. In the aftermath of the arrest, Penn State has fired its President Graham Spanier and their Head Football Coach Joe Paterno, although the Pennsylvania Attorney General has indicated that Joe Paterno is not subject to the investigation.
According to the indictment, Mr. Sandusky had been sexually molesting young boys whom he came in contact with through a program he started called “The Second Mile”, a program dedicated to helping troubled boys. While this program was started in 1977, the first alleged contact did not occur until 1994. It was not until 1998 at the first suspicions of this illicit contact come forth, and it was not until 2002 that Joe Paterno is informed of such contact. Even after these suspicions and reports, the Pennsylvania Attorney General does not commence an investigation until early 2009. Although Mr. Sandusky retired from coaching in 1999, up until his arrest he maintained emeritus status which allowed him access to the locker rooms. An entire time line of events can be found here courtesy of The Huffington Post.
I think, and would hope, that all would agree that what Mr. Sandusky has allegedly done is completely improper. It is also fairly obvious from reading the reports and the Findings of Fact that Penn State acted improperly in failing to conduct proper investigations; as such, there does not seem to be uproar about the firing of Graham Spanier. However, the firing of Joe Paterno perhaps falls into a more gray area.
After the arrest, Coach Paterno indicated that he would retire after this season. However, the University’s Board of Trustees decided to end his coaching tenure Wednesday. In response to this, more than 1,000 students protested around the Penn State Campus. In their protest the students actually overturned a media van and damaged other property.
Students were quoted as saying things such as, “From a student's perspective, it's like where do we go from here? We no longer have a president. We no longer have a 45-year legacy,” and "I think it's only fair to let him (Paterno) ride out the season because this is the house that Joe built." (Both quotes from the Cleveland Plain Dealer.) From these quotes, it is obvious that the students were concentrating more on their history than on the current events.
Of all that has come out of this series of events, it is to me this protest that seems the most questionable. As stated, it is obvious that Mr. Sandusky’s alleged actions and Penn State’s handling of the situation were improper. The firing of Coach Paterno is understandable, but whether one agrees with it or not, the proper response is not the destruction of private property. Even more disturbing is the valuation by students of football over the handling of the deplorable events giving rise to Paterno’s firing, based on the fact that Coach Paterno is a “legend” and “celebrity”. Merely being a highly successful college football coach does not excuse Paterno from the scrutiny and discipline of a “normal” coach.