Within hours of Penn State head coach Joe Paterno’s announcement today that he would retire at the end of this season in the wake of the child sexual abuse “tragedy” that has engulfed the Penn State football program, a CBS News poll was running 52-48 in favor or Penn State’s Board of Trustees forcing Paterno out immediately, rather than allowing him to finish the season. I continue to be troubled by the intensity and righteousness of the complete animosity that is being directed at a man who gave 62 years of his life to Penn State. I am completely against child abuse in any form and I do understand the sensitivities of anything having to do with that topic — but to me it just seems the venom directed at Paterno is out of proportion to his sin.
Consider this: there is every indication that the graduate assistant Mike McQueary who reported it to Paterno did so in a watered down, indirect fashion, not making clear to Paterno exactly what he saw; it is clear that Paterno immediately on the next day (a Sunday, no less), informed Tim Curley; and it is clear that Paterno would have seen ample evidence afterwards that actions had been taken against Sandusky — privileges revoked, etc. The fact that Sandusky wasn’t led away in handcuffs immediately is something that Paterno, not exactly wet behind the ears, would have presumably understood as the time that it takes for an investigation to unfold. Is this a favorable reading for Paterno? Of course it is, but hasn’t he earned that? Where is the sense of gratitude for this man’s 62 years of honorable service? Let him finish the season and exit with at least a modicum of the dignity that the preponderance of his entire life has earned him.