POINT: Paterno proved himself a good man throughout life
Much has been written about how Joe Paterno should be remembered given the circumstances surrounding his death. Should he be remembered for the success he brought to Pennsulvania State and the positive impact he made on players and the Penn State community? Or should he be remembered for the gigantic moral lapse he had when he chose not to report Jerry Sandusky to the police for child molestation?
People should remember both. Paterno was both an accomplished coach and a good man. He began his career at Penn State in 1950 as an assistant coach at the age of 23, and in 1965 he received the head coaching position. He was head coach for the Nittany Lions for 46 years.
His accomplishments at Penn State are numerous. During his time there, he racked up 409 wins, becoming the winningest football coach in NCAA Division 1 history. He won two national titles and coached five undefeated teams. Out of the students he coached, 79 of them became first-team All-Americans, and 33 were first-round NFL draft picks.
Athletic achievements aside, Paterno proved himself to be a good man who was deeply respected by the Penn State community. He was the son of second-generation Italian immigrants who began military training directly after high school. World War II ended while he was in training, and afterward, he attended college at Brown University and majored in English literature.
Academics were important to him, and he made sure his players invested in their athletic and intellectual accomplishments. In 2011, the Penn State football team saw a graduation rate of 87 percent and, along with Stanford, had the highest graduation rate for teams ranked in the final Associated Press, BCS and USA Today coaches’ polls. While at Penn State, he saw 16 players become National Football Foundation scholar-athletes.
In addition to his success as a coach, he invested in his university and his family. During his time at Penn State, he gave more than $4 million to the university. He was married to his wife, Sue, for 49 years and had five children and 17 grandchildren.
But Paterno treated child sexual abuse allegations against assistant coach Sandusky lightly, only reporting the allegations to athletic director Tim Curley and not to the police. This is inexcusable. Sandusky is now awaiting trial for 52 criminal counts and has been accused of sexual assault by 10 different boys. The fact that such an individual was kept in a position of power for so long is wrong, and Paterno’s treatment of the situation was clearly not the right thing to do.
Paterno called his failure to be more aggressive regarding Sandusky as “one of the great sorrows of my life,” but one mistake doesn’t discount a lifetime of good. Paterno’s actions throughout his life demonstrated that he was a good man committed to his work, his family and his community.
His failure to act more aggressively in pursuing legal action against Sandusky is part of his legacy, but no one should be remembered solely for their life’s greatest mistake. His “greatest mistake” does not cancel out his greatest successes. People should remember Paterno as he was, and how many human beings are: good and flawed.
Janna Gentry is an English education senior.
Read the response to this editorial: Counterpoint: Power And Influence Do Not Excuse Moral Mistakes