Vai's View: Vai's View: Penn State can keep records, but Joe Paterno statue must go
Keep the records, remove the statue.
That's what Penn State should do with Joe Paterno's legacy. The records you can't do anything about, and at this point, they're meaningless anyway. But the statue of JoePa that sits outside Beaver Stadium holding his index finger skyward just requires a jackhammer and/or a crane. He was the winningest coach in college football history with 409 victories, but Paterno lost when it mattered most: when children's lives were at stake.
Former FBI director Louis Freeh's eight-month investigation and report was damning in its findings that Paterno and others high up at Penn State knew much more than they let on about Jerry Sandusky sexually abusing children on their campus. The 267-page report found that Paterno and other top university officials knew as far back as 1998 of Sandusky's criminal behavior, yet "failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade."
They did so to protect the image and the brand of Penn State. The program generated $71 million in revenue in 2010 in a region of rural Pennsylvania where nothing else comes close. The NCAA disclosed that of 120 FBS programs, only 20 made a profit. Penn State is among the 20.
Little wonder, according to the Freeh Report, that there was a "culture of reverence" for the Penn State program among all who were beholden to it. In his press conference, Freeh cited a Penn State janitor — a Korean War veteran who presumably had seen his share of atrocities — who told a colleague that he had never seen anything so horrific as when he stumbled upon Sandusky raping a boy in the shower in 2000 while making his rounds in the football complex.
The janitor didn't report it to authorities because at Penn State, it would've been tantamount to going up against the "president of the United States."
In some parts of Pennsylvania, Joe Paterno IS the president of the United States.
One might understand why a low-rung university employee kept quiet, but why Paterno, the most visible and powerful man at Penn State, remained silent is a mystery he's taken to the grave. If he was merely concerned about the image of Penn State, as is alleged in the Freeh Report, he made a colossal miscalculation. If Paterno and Penn State officials were so consumed with protecting the brand — never mind doing the right thing — blowing the whistle on Sandusky may have earned them a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Would the Penn State brand be heightened or demeaned by turning in one of their own, for such heinous crimes? They would've been lauded from every quarter imaginable. IF, indeed, the "brand" was their sole motivation.
Whatever their motivation, it wasn't the interest of the children who were brought to the football complex by Sandusky. As Freeh said at the press conference, "Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky's child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State. Penn State ought to do what Nike has already done when they removed Paterno's name yesterday from its Child Development Care Facility on their Oregon campus.
Though he was a Paterno sympathizer, even Nike CEO Phil Knight recognized how incongruent Paterno's name is with the words, "Child Development."
Follow suit, Penn State. Remove the statue. Joe Paterno is no longer hallowed; he's hollow.
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