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Owens: Paterno’s time to go (Nov. 9)

Andrew Owens | Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Over the past year, the NCAA has faced a firestorm of alleged impropriety that has damaged the reputation of a game that is intended to exemplify purity in amateur athletics.

Former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton was investigated when it was revealed that his father tried to offer his services to the highest bidder when he transferred from Florida.

The team Auburn beat in the national championship last year, Oregon, has been tied to scouting service owner Willie Lyles, who may have been more influential in steering players toward the Ducks than in providing legitimate recruiting services.

Ohio State and Jim Tressel parted ways due to his cover-up of NCAA sanctions committed by some of the Buckeyes’ most high-profile athletes.

Over the summer, Yahoo! Sports released an investigation that implicated Miami booster Nevin Shapiro in committing serious NCAA violations, including payment and bounties for injuring players.

As serious as those potential NCAA misdeeds are, they don’t exist in the same stratosphere as what is going on at Penn State right now.

The storied college football program is implicated in a sex scandal, and its subsequent cover-up, as it now seems that an oversized ego hides behind the oversized glasses of an 84-year-old head coach and living legend.

Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno was approached in 2002 after a graduate assistant allegedly witnessed former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky molesting a 10-year-old. Paterno reported the incident to athletic director Tim Curley, who did nothing with it. But Paterno did everything correctly, right? After all, he took the issue to his “superior” (though it’s been obvious for quite some time that Paterno has no superior at Penn State).

Not in the least.

It says a lot more about the character of Paterno, a parent and grandparent, that he did not follow-up with Curley or report the incident to authorities than any one of his Division I-record 409 wins or two national championships do.

Some people will argue that Paterno abided by the law — and he probably did — by reporting it to Curley. But outside of a legal obligation, he had a moral obligation to ensure that an investigation took place. He failed in that regard, and still allowed Sandusky to have an office in the Penn State football facility and an unofficial role with the program until recently. Sandusky’s only punishment was a ban from bringing children to Penn State’s facilities. According to reports this week, he was seen with another child at practice just a few years ago.

Despite several health issues in recent years, Paterno, now in his 46th season, has remained at the helm in Happy Valley. Losing seasons in the early 2000s could not remove him from the game he loves, as Penn State has reemerged as a perennial Big Ten title contender.

Stunningly, it is his involvement in an unspeakable and unimaginable crime that will remove him from the only job he has ever known.

Always regarded as a man with no hobby outside of football, Joe Pa will endure a sentence that could not be more fitting — the remainder of his life away from football.

The coming days will say a lot about Penn State’s priorities. What’s most important to the school that had always seemed to win with honor? The irony is they still get to decide what honor means to them. Will they remove Paterno and try to repair the school’s damaged reputation, regardless of what it means to the rest of the 2011 season? Or will they allow him to coach the remainder of the season and chase a Big Ten championship?

After nearly 46 seasons, it’s time for the school to show Paterno the door.


Contact Andrew Owens at aowens2@nd.edu

The views expressed in the Sports Authority column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.