The dearth of leadership in this country gets worse by the day. When a monster, a child predator, acts, a leader doesn’t decide to do “just enough.”
It’s a lesson you would have thought Penn State’s legendary football coach would have told his players: “good enough” is never good enough.
What Joe Paterno did when he was told about one of his former coaches raping a 10-year-old boy was not good enough and it certainly didn’t exhibit any kind of leadership qualities.
Not only was JoPa complicit in the actions of a serial child rapist, but so too were the Athletic Director, Vice President and President of Penn State University.
The AD and VP face perjury charges in connection with the cover up, the President has stepped down, and the man who spent the better part of a century helping kids on and off the football field is out of a job.
Paterno has turned out thousands of quality young men, cared about them, loved them. He’s helped build libraries and buildings on campus, bettering the lives of thousands of students he’s never met.
He’s been one of the faces of college football, of one of the country’s largest universities, and of integrity for most of his 84 years on this earth.
We expect more from men like Joe Paterno.
When a politicians like Elliot Spitzer or Anthony Weiner screw up, it’s expected. Same for athletes and actors, musicians and faux celebrities.
Paterno never faced allegations of recruiting violations, nor did he face ‘tattoos-for-jersey’ scandals, or really much scrutiny of any kind.
He was asked before the season why that was, and he responded that it was because he valued moral character.
Unfortunately for Paterno, his footing on the moral high ground has become precarious at best.
As the 61-year coach at State College, Paterno was untouchable in Happy Valley. He was a deity in Pennsylvania, revered, a god among mere mortals.
But the more we find out about this story, the more complicit the entire culture at Penn State and the town becomes.
Mark Madden wrote an expose on the claims against former coach Jerry Sandusky back in April.
Furthermore, allegations against Sandusky arose in 1998 when the former defensive coordinator admitted to inappropriate sexual contact with a young boy.
No charges were ever filed.
Again, in 2002, the embers of terror burned hotter, when a graduate assistant walked in on Sandusky in the showers allegedly sodomizing a 10 year-old.
The graduate assistant told Paterno about the incident and Paterno did what he was legally obligated to do: report it to his superiors.
Here’s the problem, at Penn State Joe Paterno has no superiors. He’s the man. Period.
Paterno needed to find out exactly what his assistant saw and he needed to report it to police.
Furthermore, when Paterno did report it and no action was taken, that couldn’t have been satisfactory.
It’s unconscionable to me, unfathomable, that a man who, since the Korean War, has been looking after the well-being of young men, could have been satisfied when Sandusky received the equivalent of a slap on the wrist.
Not even a slap, more like a gentle nudge. The university told him not to bring boys to campus again, basically saying “rape young boys somewhere else.”
Sandusky was on campus as recently as last week. In fact, he’s regularly on campus, the campus run by Coach Paterno.
The sick, twisted mind of a child predator is to blame for the horrors of this story. Worse still, Madden reported this morning that Sandusky had used his foundation, an outreach for at-risk boys, to essentially ‘pimp out’ children to rich donors.
People knew it was going on. Paterno knew because Paterno knows all. He runs Happy Valley.
Luckily, the people who covered for Sandusky – and truly, by extension, Joe Paterno – face jail time.
Our justice system has a place for people who commit the kind of heinous crimes Sandusky has allegedly committed. There’s a reason, even in maximum security prisons with the most terrifying criminals on earth, that child rapists are treated the worst.
But for a man who has built his reputation on integrity, given so much, and been such a true role model of leadership and values, to fail so titanically in the face of what seems like an easy moral call, is truly disheartening.
A leader’s work is never done because attitude reflects leadership. We all make mistakes, but a leader is accountable for them and tries to fix them; he doesn’t say “I should have done more,” 10 years after the fact.
Joe Paterno is a living legend, a great football coach, and an historic beneficiary to one of the largest universities in our great nation.
He’s now also a cautionary tale about how one mistake, one act of cowardice in the face of adversity, can undermine it all.