I’m sickened but not surprised by the results of the Louis Freeh investigation at Penn St. I think we all kind of knew that Joe Paterno had a hand in covering up the sex scandal that involved children, but we didn’t want to believe “The Legend” would do such a thing. I, too, was one who felt from the first day that Joe uttered those fateful words in a meeting about what to do or not to do with Sandusky, but held out hope that he was in the dark on the situation. Why? Because over the last ten years I’ve been let down time and time again. From baseball steroids to coaching cover ups I still wanted to believe that at least one person was above the money, above the ego, above the program. That one person in authority would do the right thing.
Unfortunately the worst possible scenario has come true. Once again, someone who had the ability to control the situation chose the wrong path. Once again, I’m left shaking my head and wondering how what seems to be an easy slam dunk decision, turns out to the wrong way. It appears easy doesn’t it? Here’s how I picture the conversation in the room with the president of Penn St, the vice president, the athletic director and Joe Paterno.
The AD starts, “Gentlemen here’s what we know. Jerry Sandusky was caught with a young boy in the shower…”.
The President pipes in “What proof do we have? Has anyone talked to Jerry?”
“Sir we have a witness”.
The President reacts, “Joe (Paterno) how do you want to handle this?”
Right there all he had to say was “contact the authorities”. And that’s where the train went off the tracks. Instead of doing what is logically and morally the best thing, the four of them conspired to cover it up and put more children in harms way.
Why? The answer is easy. It’s the answer to every question now in sports when someone asks “why?” MONEY! What program brings in the most money to a major university? Answer: Football. Who raised the most money from boosters over his tenure at Penn State? Answer: Joe Paterno. A scandal like this involving Joe’s heir apparent would have set the program back ten years and cost the university hundreds of millions of dollars. Paterno probably would have been forced out if not suspended, recruits would’ve jumped ship and boosters would have pulled their wallets back in the blink of an eye. Instead they chose the low road. They chose to put more kids in the hands of the devil and opened the door and invited him in.
I’m mortified by the family, friends and former players who seem to be defending Joe by saying “he’s only human, he made mistakes”. I’m sorry those words do not justify the actions of what transpired over 14 years ago. “He made mistakes” doesn’t give back the innocence those children lost in that locker room or shower or wherever else Sandusky orchestrated his disgusting crimes. The fact is Joe gave in. He gave in for the price of power and fame. He gave in because he didn’t want to see his great program suffer. He gave in because the right decision was too damn hard!
I guess I’ll have to keep looking for that one person.
Chad Wilkinson is the Operations Manager of WPKO & WBLL and PeakofOhio.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org