Wednesday, November 9, 2011

8 > 409:  The Board of Trustees of Pennsylvania State University has voted unanimously to fire head football coach Joe Paterno, effective immediately.  The University's president, Graham Spanier, has resigned.

We do not yet know all the facts to assess in full Paterno's moral culpability in the child rape scandal, but I feel like we know enough to know that tonight's decision was necessary.


  1. GoldnI10:49 PM

    If he had been allowed to retire on his own terms, then Penn State would have firmly answered the question of why victims don't come forward-- because the people around them are more concerned with their own image than with the lives of children.  It would have sent the firm message that football is in fact more important.  The Board of Trustees is going to take a lot of crap, but they did the right thing.

  2. It seems that Joe Paterno was the victim of a media lynching.  McQueary, the graduate assistant, failed to take action when he saw the abuse.  The administration failed to properly investigate the matter.  Paterno did as he should by reporting the matter.  After that, it was out of his hands.  He is going down because he is famous.

  3. JosephFinn11:08 PM

    So here's my question: why didn't the university fire <span>Tim Curley and Gary Schultz?  Is there a legal reason, since they are both indicted and (as I understand it) the university is paying for their defense?</span>

  4. WOW!  I could not disagree with you more.

  5. I disagree as well, Jim.  Paterno had a moral responsibility to find out what the hell was going on and why the matter wasn't going to the police.

    Moreover, this was just an untenable situation -- how could you send Paterno to road games at this point? 

  6. I'm conflicted about this. Paterno did what he was required to do, no more, no less. Should he have followed up on the accusation? I think so, as the most powerful person on the Penn State campus. But was he required to do so on the terms of his employment? From what I understand, no. Would it have been better if when her heard "child" and "rape" in the same sentence that he called 911 immediately? No doubt. Does he deserve to go down instead of the administrators who were legally required to alert the authorities? I'm not sure. I hope the kids who were abused get the help they need, and I hope this is a wake-up call for anywhere else this happens, from elementary schools on.

  7. Yes, that is what I wondered as well. If there are any lawyers on this board, could they comment? 

  8. <span><span>Jen, it isn't a case of "instead of", it is "in addition to".  Or to put it another way, every single person in the chain of command who ever heard the words Adult, Child, Shower and didn't report it to the authorities, should be fired, and where the law and statue of limitations permits, indicted.</span></span>
    <span>Further, in the case of Paterno, his all-star Assistant Coach retired in 1999, for seemingly no good reason, never to take a job in football again.  This after accusations and an investigation into another instance with a child.  It's impossible to believe that Paterno wasn't intimately aware of the details of that accusation.  So, even in the ideal world his supporters are postulating, where McQueary didn't report sexual acts when informing Paterno about the 2002 rape, he would have immediately been aware that was a pattern.  At that point he had the responsibility to not only report it up his chain, but to also make sure that the authorities were immediately notified.  The lack of concern for a child, who was likely being abused only 12 hours before, is despicable.</span>

  9. Lou W. Yes, I agree with what you're saying. I only know the details of the case from the national news. I don't follow college football at all (except when forced to in my father's presence), so I didn't know all the details about the mysteriously disappearing, yet seemingly incredibly employable, assistant coach. I agree about the truly horrifying child abuse and molestation, and no matter where this may happen (coach/athlete, teacher/student, priest/parishioner, etc.), the predators absolutely deserve punishment. No question at all. I was thinking "big picture." But thinking about the kids in my life, if I found out another authority figure was playing by rules, passing the information up the ladder and not making sure the predator was removed from the situation, I'd want his head on a platter. 

  10. I've just read what I think is an excellent summary of why Paterno had to be fired by Jeanne Hill at ESPN. I think its the first thing I've read on this at ESPN that wasn't wishy-washy crap.

  11. GoldnI12:10 AM

    He did what he was legally required to do--and then washed his hands of it.  He fulfilled his legal requirements, and then sat back and let it be swept under the rug.

    As far as the graduate assistant is concerned, am I really the only one who wonders if it wasn't made perfectly clear to him, one way or another, that if he didn't want to be blackballed from football that he would keep his mouth shut?  I'm not excusing him in the least--everyone failed these children, at every level--but we live in a society that punishes the whistle-blowers far more than the culprits, ESPECIALLY when it comes to the football cash cow.

  12. Ramar1:35 AM

    <span>media lynching</span>

    Oh, for God's sake.

  13. Cecilia6:46 AM

    Nothing, obviously, is going to make things right for those poor boys. Penn State needed to fire Spanier and Paterno for its current students and its alums and as a message to other athletic departments in the future if they are ever facing everything approaching something like this: do the right thing, not just the technically legal thing, or there are consequences. I didn't think the trustees would take this course of action. Good for them.

  14. Adam C.6:56 AM

    Had to happen, and the Board did the right thing re: Paterno and Spanier.  My guess is that re: Curley, they'll let the criminal process play out first; Schultz had already re-retired effective immediately, so nothing the Board could have done there.

    Of course, now some students are being embarrasingly meatheaded about it all, flipping TV newsvans and such....

  15. Good. They should be fired. As should anyone else who had knowledge of Sandusky's actions and failed to intervene and you know, STOP HIM. Whether or not Paterno or Spanier are legally liable for what they failed to do does not matter, they are certainly liable on a moral level. Pathetic excuses for men.

    One incredibly disturbing thing that occurred to me: these charges against Sandusky go back 15 years, but apparently he founded this charity in 1977. Plus, according to wikipedia he has six kids and was a foster parent. The guy made a point of having access to young boys throughout his lifetime. Obviously these charges are just related to what happened at Penn State, but does anyone else think there must be other victims out there? What a sick bastard.

  16. From Twitter: I'll tell you one thing, Coach Eric Taylor would have gone to the cops.

  17. AbbyG8:27 AM

    There's a very sad part of me that thought if it was FNL-world, there's an awesome position for Coach Taylor (especially since he's in Philly).  And that he'd never stand for letting this type of thing be swept under the rug especially with Mrs Coach by his side.

    I wish it were real.

    That's what I get for having no knowledge about football besides FNL.

  18. victoria9:00 AM

    I can kind of see the argument that Paterno, at the time McQueary first came to him, might have been uncomfortable reporting the allegations directly to police -- he wasn't there, etc., etc. But even if you think his behavior was OK, there are two things he should have done then and didn't. He should have encouraged McQueary to go to the police with his account and let him know the department would stand behind him. And when he sent it up the chain he should have followed up very aggressively.

    And once there was more than one report there really was no excuse for anyone in a position to know -- whether they were legally responsible, an eyewitness, whatever -- to go to the cops and/or to CFS. I agree that Paterno isn't the most culpable person here, but it wasn't "out of his hands" at all and he could have helped.

  19. victoria9:01 AM

    I meant, not to go to the cops.

  20. Benner9:11 AM

    That bothers me the most.  People in college are supposed to handle issues like this like reasonable adults.  I suspect this is a small minority here, but as long as there's property damage to the town, I say cancel the game, and if anyone riots again, no football for the rest of the year or all of next year.  Hold a town meeting to take down the temperature.  

    I think a case can be made in good faith that, from a remove of 30,000 feet, resigning at the end of the year might be sufficient for someone who has no other life and who isn't even accused of doing anything illegal.  From the university's point of view, given how the story has escalated, they have no other choice, and surely many of the students can see this.  

    I wonder if the protests are less about defending Paterno and more about the understandable feeling of denial that someone like him could have acted this way.  Although I bet many of the students simply prioritize winning football games, which, at this point, is not a reason to keep him around.  They already have a mascot.

  21. Benner9:17 AM

    The "stated" reason is the alleged crimes were part of carrying out official duties.  Not having read the indemnity or relevant insurance agreements, but having read some in the past, there might be play around the definition of "claim," but who knows.  They're innocent until proven guilty.  Some organizations when confronted with claims they did not want to pay have in the past taken the approach of "don't like it, sue me."  It might not want to set a precedent of publicly reneging on indemnities with so many adminsitrative vacancies open, however.  

    As for their jobs, Shultz already retired, but yeah, if there's a basis to fire Paterno, there's one to fire Curley.  Also, anybody fire McQueary yet?  He's the WR coach, which at Penn State is a no-show job, but someone should get on that.  Every day he walked by Sandusky's offense and didn't call the cops, he undid any benefit he might have had by going to Paterno in the first instance.

  22. Benner9:20 AM

    If you saw "Capturing the Friedmans," there are plenty of situations where the mere accusation of sexual abuse creates a panic where facts be damned.  This does not seem to be one of those situations.  And the only mob here are the students breaking lampposts and news vans in State College, for which I think the school should cancel the Nebraska game and all others until the students learn to act like they're at school to learn.

  23. Anonymous9:58 AM

    Okay, here's the plan. If JoePa can get credit for the last two years of wins where he watched from the booth to avoid getting killed in a sideline collision, then Grambling needs to exhume Eddie Robinson's corpse and place it in the booth for the first two or three games next season until he gets to 410.


  24. The Pathetic Earthling9:59 AM

    One of the things that gets me is that it is only at an institution this large and with this much bureaucratic inertia could something like this happen.  Setting aside the money flowing through football and the sainthood of Joe Paterno and all that.  Graduate Assistant sees this, reports to football coach, who reports to atheltic director and university vice chancellor who are answerable to, but do not tell, Board of Trustees.  Plenty of play in the joints there for folks to feel they have discharged their duty by telling someone else without actually seeing that something is done.  That Joe Paterno could think he's not somehow the final authority when it comes to the PSU football program is wilfull blindness.  It might have been a sin of weakness on Paterno's part, rather than one of malice.  I'll grant him that.  But it's still a sin for his failure and he needed to go.

    We have an ongoing deal here in the K-8 school district in town where an 8th grade male teacher was arrested about a year ago for molesting 12 and 13 year old girls.  Hundreds of texts, efforts to do tutoring alone, and all sorts of actual physical molestation.  Apparently, there were a few questions asked about his behavior in the months ahead, but as soon as the school district had a credible, specific complaint from a parent with specifics, the principal and the superintendent immediately brough in police because -- no doubt among other things -- they knew they were the last people in charge.  

  25. Nowhereman10:01 AM

    With the economics of college football, there are *huge* fiscal pressures to compromise personal morals or integrity to prevent any sort of scandal reaching the news. It doesn't in any way excuse what a lot of people did in this case, but the unfortunate truth is being more pro-active would have almost certainly gotten then eventually fired from Penn State; as someone higher up in the chain tried to sweep it under the rug, would have felt massive institutional pressure to stay quiet so as to not "ruin the program," or potentially have their entire career blackballed and find themselves unable to find another job in college sports due to being branded a "troublemaker." And thanks to the wonderful psychological effects of the 'banality of evil' a-la Zimbardo (i.e. "I was just following orders!"), they can probably even sleep well at night knowing they sold out a bunch of completely innocent kids to protect their own necks.

  26. Marsha10:11 AM

    This is a man who has built his career and reputation, as well as the reputation of his football program, on training men. On holding them to the highest ethical standards. On refusing to allow people to play for him who didn't keep their grades up. This is a man who recruits players with the direct message that they should come play for Penn State because it is squeaky clean. This man does not get a pass.

    If all we had here was rumor, innuendo, and suspiscion, I would understand Paterno's action. Sex abuse, particularly of children, and even more particularly of boys, is a crime where even raising the possibility publicly would ruin Sandusky's life, so if you have nothing but rumors, I can understand (though not really agree) why you keep it in the family, as it were. But the idea that anyone in this story, including, but not limited to Paterno, had an eyewitness saying they saw an actual act of rape by a coach of a ten year old, and that they wouldn't call the police is beyond reprehensible. Of course he should have been fired, and so should anyone else who knew and didn't call the police.

    If they had called the police when the grad assistant reported what he saw, they could have spared other boys from Sandusky. That's pretty much the only fact I need to know.

    (On a somewhat lighter note, I strongly agree with this tweet from TMZ's Harvey Levin (a fellow alum of my legal alma mater):<span> "After watching this whole thing, I'm glad I went to schools where the football team sucked.")</span>

  27. For those who know what I do, you may know that I deal with this often.  I am DISGUSTED that anyone would think that Paterno is blameless.

    When I have to explain to someone why someone is responsible, I actually refer to a movie:
    Downey: "What did we do wrong? We did nothing wrong".
    Dawson: "Yeah, we did. We were supposed to fight for the people who couldn't fight for themselves. We were supposed to fight for Willie".

  28. Oh wow do I disagree with this.  I don't know how ANY person could hear about what was going on and not have the FIRST call they made be to 911.  There is no possible excuse for protecting Sandusky.  Paterno did the absolute bare minimum that he needed to do as an employee of Penn State, and significantly LESS than the bare minimum that he needed to do as a decent human being.  Paterno is certainly not the only person who's culpable, but he IS culpable.  Those kids' lives will never be the same.

  29. Benner10:43 AM

    Did not know that.  Diploma's in the mail.

  30. The Pathetic Earthling10:58 AM

    Benner, you are one of us?

  31. I know this is way, way bigger than football, but I don't think it's fair to punish the football players in this.  From all reports (and tweets) I've seen, they have handled this with class.  This isn't a situation like Miami, OSU or USC, where high school players came to visit, saw the cars, tattoos and yachts and said "I want to be a part of this."  Unless almost everyone knew about this and it was a ridiculous "I wouldn't believe this on 'SVU' cover up" - which I am not ruling out - these kids did not know what they were getting themselves into.

    Need to find a way to punish the idiot students who were flipping over vans without punishing A) the football players who have handled this as well as anyone could so far or B) the thousands of students who were not doing stupid stuff last night.

  32. Chin Music11:57 AM

    I am not sure I expect people in college to handle any issue like reasonable adults.  Then again, it's been a while since I was in college.  But, I seem to recall college as a place where everyone overreacted to everything and usually in the wrong direction.

  33. Meghan12:34 PM

    I have seen referenced on twitter and elsewhere that, because no one looked for Victim 2, for all we know, he's AT Penn State right now.  It could be that his classmates are rioting over the termination of the guy who turned a blind eye to his sexual assault.  It's galling that no one knows who that kid is or what's become of him.

    It is possible to think that Joe Paterno is a stand-up guy who did a lot of great things and made this grievous error in judgement.  He, like every other human on the face of the earth, is not black and white.  I admire what he did at Penn State, by and large, and the way his football players seem to be conducting themselves through this is a testament to the multitude of things he has done right.  It cannot be overlooked, however, that his failure to follow up on this was a significant error of judgement, one whose outcome has been realized and, quite frankly, couldn't be denied.

    Although this was the only outcome, I can't help but feel sad.  I have sympathy for JoePa.  I think his decision not to act in some way on these allegations was a terrible, terrible decision, but it's not the only thing he ever did. 

    I have significantly less sympathy for Mike McQueary.  When you SEE something, you DO something. 

  34. Benner12:35 PM

    If by chicago grad, yes.  '05.

  35. Benner12:37 PM

    that was my recollection to, but the university should try to keep up appearances, no?

  36. At the very least, a sister of one of the victims is enrolled now:

  37. Adam C.1:55 PM

    My view, shared by my wife (she's an alum) is that PSU has, and has long had, a high meathead quotient.  I think it is the prioritization of football, combined with immature meatheadedness, that most likely animated the riots, rather than emotion driven by denial.

  38. Adam C.2:00 PM

    CW, although they are still a long way down the list from the direct victims of this tragedy, I too feel sympathy for this year's (quite good) team, and particularly this year's seniors, whose final hurrah at home will be overshadowed by the scandal and the firings.  I am very torn between feelings that PSU should decline any bowl invite this year and demonstrate a proper focus on healing and not on football, and a sense that this team should have every opportunity to rise above the disgusting behavior of the nominal adults and try to win a Big Ten and possibly a national championship without -- and decidedly not in honor of -- Paterno.

  39. isaac_spaceman3:21 PM

    First of all, the media can't lynch anybody.  That's one of those words, like holocaust, that people should reserve for when it really means something.  There is a whole cultural meaning to lynching that just does not belong in this discussion. 

    Second, please let's not ignore the fact that, for all practical purposes, Joe Paterno was Tim Curley's boss, not the other way around., no matter what it said on the org chart.  

  40. Squid3:53 PM

    <span><span> "After watching this whole thing, I'm glad I went to schools where the football team sucked."</span></span>

    My bitter joke at the office this week has been that I'm going to work for my current company forever, since I'm too ashamed to send out resumes with my Alma Mater on them.

    Iowahawk tweeted that we're "The Vatican of the Big Ten."  That left a mark.