There are those people who would argue that sexual abuse of a child is just like murder. Actually, I myself don’t think they’re very different crimes. In fact, child abusers should face the same penalties if you would ask me.
So, if that’s true was Joe Paterno and the rest of those in charge at Happy Valley any different from a murderer?
The popular debate today is whether or not the Penn State football program should be shut down and whether or not the statue of JoePa should come down from in front of the football stadium.
First, don’t shut down the football program. The kids who play football for the Nittany Lions are innocent victims. Yes, it was their head coach and some other related personnel. But there was no evidence ever of a football player being part of this horrible tragedy.
And I know they’re talking shutting it down for one year. And yes, players could transfer somewhere else. But what if they really love playing for Penn State? What if all they have ever dreamed of was playing for the white and the blue? Would Rudy have been the same story if he was forced to transfer to Temple, Delaware or West Chester?
Now about the statue decision.
Back in 1997, John E. du Pont was found guilty but mentally ill in the shooting death a year earlier of Dave Schultz, 36. Schultz had won a gold medal in freestyle wrestling at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and was training for the 1996 Atlanta Games and was considered a friend of du Pont.
In Villanova, the basketball arena was known as the du Pont Pavilion. That of course changed quickly as the university removed the name and it has been since known as just the Pavilion.
I would say that the correct decision for ‘Nova was to remove the du Pont name. Otherwise, those people who walked by the arena would always be reminded that one bad du Pont was responsible for a horrific crime.
So in my opinion leaving JoePa’s statue outside the stadium would forever tarnish the team and the university as Paterno’s legacy today is not what it was even just a couple of years ago. It would be difficult for years and years to come to walk by that statue and not have this sexual abuse scandal be the first thing that gets mentioned.
Also, Joe’s name attached to anything else – libraries, various buildings – must be removed. This has to happen for the healing to occur. And we’re obviously not talking about crimes like recruiting infractions.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime tragedy (hopefully) for Penn State and one that will take years and years to begin to move along. And it’s the duty of the university to make that healing easier while tightening the rules and checks and balances.
No one ever dreamed or wanted to believe that someone as prominent as Paterno could have had his legacy so tarnished, ruined to the point it has been. Penn State was one of those places most people believed “got it” and understood the meaning of right and wrong, good sportsmanship, graduating athletes who weren’t just dummies in football pads.
No one ever thought we’d get to this – ever.
But we have and now it’s time for action. And that action must be to clean out anyone left even remotely related to the Paterno era. Take down the statue, remove his name anywhere it appears. But let the boys play.
It will show the world we can forgive the innocent. And that we’re punishing the guilty.
It’s time to move on.
– Andy Hachadorian