Greeson: Penn State tries to recover while victims still ache

Greeson: Penn State tries to recover while victims still ache

November 12th, 2011 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

It will get worse before it gets better, but that's the only thing that is universal in scandals this bad.

The news that rocked college football continues to spiral from surprising to surreal to sickening, and the Penn State football program that boasted "Success with honor" is looking for solace to heal. That will start today.

Today, Penn State will play a home football game, what would be a normal and glorious fall occurrence that makes Happy Valley the third biggest city in Pennsylvania and seems to give breath and belief to the town's residents.

Today, though, will be surreal for a multitude of reasons that start with the simple truth that this will be the first PSU game since the LBJ administration -- some 548 football games -- that someone other than Joe Paterno will be the head coach of the Lions.

Today, the talk will be as much about who is not there -- Paterno and assistant coach Mike McQueary, who was placed on administrative leave Friday for his role in what is showing the signs of a growing cover-up -- and the support for those who kept silent as the innocent screamed.

Paterno won more games than any other college football coach, but his loss of words or gumption or guts or some would say decency following a 2002 incident will forever tarnish his reputation.

His silence was louder than the millions of cheers and thrills he and his team brought to a little-known college that became a powerhouse under Jo Pa's stewardship. His indifference to evil -- and that's what this is -- will forever be linked with the countless good things he did in his 62 years as an assistant and head coach at Penn State.

Everyone knows the tragic trail of events: Jerry Sandusky, longtime Penn State assistant, has been charged with more than 40 acts of sexual abuse against eight boys over a 15-year stretch; Paterno was informed by McQueary, then a graduate assistant, of Sandusky performing a horrific act against a 10-year-old in 2002; Paterno told PSU athletic director Tim Curley and PSU vice president Gary Schultz, who ran the PSU police department among his many duties, and the entire group then proceeded to do almost nothing else; Sandusky continued to prey on young boys to the point that this week a court order now prevents him from being alone with his own grandchildren.

Now it finally seems the gravity and seriousness of these events have hit home at Happy Valley, despite the rallies of support for Paterno, who was fired Wednesday along with Penn State president Graham Spanier, who said last weekend that he supported Curley and Schultz "unconditionally" despite their silence and the perjury charges that were issued against them by the grand jury that indicted Sandusky.

This was the only decision to be made, even if it was made three days too late. Paterno should have stepped down as soon as the details emerged a week ago, and after he again chose his legacy, his image and his program over doing what's right, his termination was the only solution, regardless of what a collection of spoiled, insensitive and naive college students do to a news van in protest.

And for those protesting Paterno's firing, feel free to explain your points to any of Sandusky's victims since the 2002 event that Paterno decided was worth exactly one phone call to the AD.

Plus, after all that happened, Paterno tried one more strong-armed power play to save his legacy, announcing Wednesday morning that he would finally retire at season's end. Wisely, the PSU board realized that Paterno did not deserve to exit on his terms. He did not deserve a river of standing ovations in today's home finale. He did not deserve to be carried off the field if the Nittany Lions find a way amid the chaos and the confusion and the tears to beat Nebraska.

He deserved to be fired. But "deserve" has nothing to do with a mess this distasteful, because none of the victims deserved what happened and any of the boys that suffered any of the heinous acts since 2002 deserve an answer from Paterno about why he chose to protect the image of his program instead of children.

There are at least six people in various jobs from vice president to custodian at Penn State that could have called the cops or raised a hand or said, "Hey, what's going on here?" and never did. That number will grow, and as it expands, so too will the appearance and accusations of a complete cover-up by Paterno and other Penn State officials.

Here's saying at least two dozen people knew Sandusky was a sicko. Maybe they didn't have eyewitness knowledge like McQueary or had firsthand accounts of it like Paterno and some of the PSU administration, but they knew.

And they all let the monster continue to prey.

I don't give two rips about Paterno's legacy or his half-century of success. The more I think of this and ache for the victims, the more it becomes clear that this does not tarnish Paterno's legacy -- it erases it.