Paterno Statue Gone, Now What?

The 900-pound bronze statue of the late Paterno was unveiled in 2001.

    The statue honoring former Penn State head coach Joe Paterno that sat outside Beaver Stadium and was the flashpoint over the argument of Paterno’s legacy on the school’s campus was removed this morning. Crews had the statue wrapped up and transferred inside the stadium via forklift. The decision to remove the statue came down from University president Rodney Erickson about 7am Eastern today and the statue was inside the stadium by 8:30am. Erickson also said that Paterno’s name would remain on the school’s library.

So that’s the news. As I write this at 1pm Eastern, I’m kind of expecting to see some demonstrations today at the stadium by students and alumni who are not happy with the school’s decision to try and bury the legacy of the school’s grandfather, which I believe is misguided. If they want to be pissed at someone, they should probably start with Spanier, Curley and Schultz, who are facing criminal charges for their roles in the cover-up. Look, I’m sorry. I also admire Paterno for what he was able to do on the football field, on the Penn State campus and for the lives of countless young men and women at that school, directly or indirectly for years. However, the revelations in the Freeh Report shows us a few things.

First, this was a man who had his faults and made mistakes. It doesn’t matter why he did what he did. He was part of a system that tried to protect one of their own, who was committing heinous crimes, in order to protect themselves. Look, I understand the concept of CYA. It’s something I have to practice in my profession on a daily basis. But there are some circumstances where that doesn’t work. Here’s one of those hindsight moments. If what these four were trying to do was protect the reputation of the University, how much less damage would have been done if this issue were taken care of back in 1998? As so often is the case, it’s the cover-up that makes a crime worse than if it were dealt with up front.

Second, we see the folly again in making a god out of a man. I know this is probably where I catch hell, but we’ve seen this over and over again. A person is held up as an example of virtue and made to be a saintly character and more often than not, that person disappoints those who have deified them. Paterno walked on water in the eyes of many Penn State students and community members. Now that they are shown that he may not have been perfect person they believed him to be, they are hurt. But there’s no way for them to get any type of closure because the man has passed. So now we see waves of anger and denial, directed at those trying to salvage the institution left behind. Now I know I have a different perspective because I wasn’t on campus and I’m on the outside looking in and I’m just being an annoying internet pundit, etc., etc. While that’s all true, I think my point still remains. We, as a society, are continuously let down by those who we choose to admire because we put famous people so often on pedestals and then when they prove themselves to be human, we are hurt that they fell. Of course, the true believers then choose to lash out at the media or those that helped cause their downfall, instead of admitting that they put their faith in a human who let them down.

Remember how we felt about this guy?

Look, I’m kinda with former Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden on the matter. The statue would serve as a constant reminder and reason to bring up the scandal during games and media coverage. Thing is, if Paterno was still alive, you’d never see him in Beaver Stadium for the same reason. It’s harsh to say about someone who literally gave his professional life to the school, but they would make sure he wasn’t around because he would be inexorably liked to Sandusky and the scandal. That however, is just my outsider’s opinion, so that it for what it’s worth.

Now, the NCAA will have their say. Tomorrow morning, it will announce what it will do to Penn State in a pretty obvious case of “lack of institution control.” The Nittany Lions will not receive the death penalty, a source told ESPN’s Joe Schaad. However, the postseason bans and loss of scholarships are said to be so severe that the death penalty would be better for the program. If you look at what the death penalty did to SMU and when you consider that it took them about twenty years to recover, I’m not sure I can fathom how bad this is going to be. We’ll have some reaction tomorrow morning when the hammer falls. Maybe I’ll wait a little bit before I post, so that I have time to gather the internet vitriol that will surely head the NCAA’s way. Then maybe we could extend the conversation to include where the range and scope of the NCAA’s purview should extend to.

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