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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Defending JoePa, redux

Right after Penn State fired Joe Paterno back in November, shortly after the grand jury report about Jerry Sandusky was released, thousands of people, maninly Penn State students, took to the streets in protest/riot. At the time, I wondered what they were protesting and why they thought JoePa had someone been wronged in all of this. At the time, many simply chalked it up to "stupid college kids" who did not really give thought to (or care about) the broader issues involved.

On the other hand, it appears to not be limited only to PSU students. New PSU president Rodney Erickson has been holding a series of town hall meetings with alumnae to discuss the scandal. And the overriding theme of these town halls is that the Board of Trustees was wrong, and should all be fired, for terminating Paterno. The bad thing was firing Paterno, not the mishandling of the allegations against Sandusky. It was tears for all Paterno had done, not the fact that, by all accounts, Sandusky was still a presence on campus and around the footbal progran long after the administration knew about these allegations. Here are two accounts of the New York town hall, where questions all focused on why JoePa was fired and not why Sandusky was not called out sooner. Here is a New York Times piece on the Board and their actions and thought processes. And here is a short commentary from Torie Bosch, a PSU grad and writer at Slate, expressing "dismay[]" over the reaction of many alumni.

Again, I think I could understand an argument of "Sandusky is wrongly accused, so JoePa did nothing wrong in failing toand should not have been fired." But, at this point, no one is (or, frankly, can) make that argument. Instead, like the students, the argument is "How could you fire our wonderful coach?", with no consideration of the bigger picture.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on January 19, 2012 at 02:08 PM in Current Affairs, Howard Wasserman, Sports | Permalink


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I'm not a PSU alumnus, and have not been to any of the Town Hall meetings, but I don't think the argument is simply "How could you fire our wonderful coach?" One of the articles talks about due process, which suggests that part of the issue is the speed with which Paterno was fired and the lack of an opportunity to defend himself.

Off-hand, I can think of at least two arguments Paterno could have made to the Board if given the chance. First, exactly what McQueary told him is still vague from the last materials I read. McQ may not have given Paterno sufficient description to understand the gravity of his allegations, and so Paterno may not have realized the seriousness of the situation.

Second, Paterno could have given an explanation of why he told his superiors, thus complying with the law, but did not go further. I personally believe he had no obligation to call the police and accuse someone else of a life-destroying crime based on someone else's hearsay. While others may disagree, a hearing would have given Paterno the chance to make that argument. Relatedly, again it's unclear what his superiors told him in response to him McQ's allegations. If they acted serious and said they would take care of it, that may have changed the views of his actions.

In short, there seems to have been at least some vague facts that would change how one look's at Paterno's actions, and he was never given an opportunity to present his side of the story before being fired.

Posted by: Calderon | Jan 19, 2012 7:40:15 PM

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