Thursday, November 10, 2011

The End of an Era

Goodbye, JoePa.

The big question that keeps running through my mind is "why?" What did JoePa do to deserve a perfunctory phone call bringing an even more perfunctory end to the most storied career in college football history? After all, he did what was legally required of him, which is precisely why there are no charges against him. He is a football coach and not a detective. When an allegation came across his desk--one of what we should imagine were countless accusations, suppositions, and rumors to be reported to him over 46 years--he reported it to the people whose job it was to launch an investigation. Could he have done more? Of course. Hindsight has a beautiful clarity to it. (Imagine if Sandusky were innocent and JoePa had led a crusade slandering a civic leader and founder of a charitable organization. Would we be any less judgmental then, armed as we are with afterthought?) The fact that JoePa himself recognizes, in retrospect, that he could have done more and offered as a voluntary penance his own retirement ought to have been enough. The difference would have been allowing a man who has revolutionized the public image of your university (so that people even care if there is a scandal there) and dedicated more than half of his life to developing and mentoring college athletes to coach four more games.

That apparently seemed like too magnanimous a path to the board of trustees. Why? What was JoePa's crime?

“I’m not sure I can tell you specifically,” board vice chair John Surma replied when asked at a packed news conference why Paterno had to be fired immediately. “In our view, we thought change now was necessary.”

Well that's a little vague. Perhaps they could clarify for us why they felt the need to eschew all courtesy and professionalism and destroy a four decade career over the phone.

Asked why he was fired over the phone, Surma said, “We were unable to find a way to do that in person without causing further distraction.”

So, in short, they remove the greatest fixture in college sports, ultimately confound the university's fundraising ability, athletic ability, and character, and incite mob violence, and their reasoning for doing it was "I don't know" and for doing it the way they did "It seemed convenient."

It all leaves me feeling a little unsatisfied. The victims have not been healed, the perpetrators have not been punished, and Happy Valley is no happier. I hope, in addition, that the board of trustees have trouble sleeping tonight.

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