Tag Archives: Graham Spanier

Penn State’s Joe Paterno Should Resign Immediately

8 Nov

In an unusual and rare move, The Patriot-News newspaper ran an editorial on the front page this morning. In it, they argued that Penn State University President Graham Spanier should resign immediately and head football coach Joe Paterno should leave his post at the end of the year. Unfortunately, in light of the facts of the Jerry Sandusky case, the end of the year is not soon enough. By reneging on his moral obligations to society, Paterno has compromised his position and should resign immediately.

Though we may not always like it, our society functions because a series of largely unwritten, but commonly understood, series of moral compasses exist. One of the most basic is that we try to protect young people who cannot protect themselves. Another is that sports events, no matter how much money is sunk into them, are just games. When the well-being of a defenseless, young child and athletics come into conflict, there is no question how we should act.

Everyone at Penn State appears to have violated that principle. That ranges from Spanier to Paterno to the graduate assistant, Mike McQueary, who witnessed the alleged abuse. Though Paterno and Spanier appear to have been cleared legally of any wrongdoing, they are guilty of dereliction of their moral responsibilities.

Excuses will be made in the coming months for why more was not done. Paterno may claim that he simply didn’t understand the gravity of the situation because he is the product of another era. If that is true, and Paterno didn’t comprehend the magnitude of the situation, he should not have been coaching then and should not be coaching now.

In the indictment, Paterno admits understanding that something inappropriate occurred between Sandusky and a child in a shower. He was more than likely aware of the 1998 incident involving Sandusky. He knew that Sandusky founded a charity (The Second Mile) for at-risk children and had access to hundreds of them. Even if he wasn’t sure how serious the allegations were, Paterno knew that Sandusky had twice acted “inappropriately” with children. Yet, Sandusky continued to host camps and bring children to Penn State practice facilities. How Paterno could not have connected the dots is inconceivable.

McQueary is even more puzzling. He witnessed Sandusky anally raping a young boy who was no older than ten years old. Yet, he did nothing in the moment to stop the attack. McQueary graduated from Penn State as the quarterback just two years prior to the attack. He was young, athletic and saw a young child being traumatized. That he didn’t step in is something he will live with for the rest of his life.

After the attack, McQueary stayed on campus. He rose to the rank of assistant coach. He must have seen Sandusky bringing young boys to the school’s practices in the years after the 2002 shower attack. Having witnessed what Sandusky had done once before, he still did nothing. Even if you accept that Paterno shouldn’t have believed the “rumors,” McQueary actually saw an attack. By not calling the police himself initially and not stepping in again when he saw Sandusky still with children, McQueary also violated his moral duties. Of course notifying Paterno and school officials was something positive, but his lack of further action allowed more young boys to be abused for nine more years.

This case is even sadder because of all the good Paterno has brought Penn State through the years. There is little question that he has profoundly shaped young men on his football team into better people and transformed their lives for the better. You don’t get partial credit for moral virtue though. Allowing a pedophile to continue victimizing young boys because of your inaction is an act that should tarnish the best of careers.

These men neglected their most basic moral duties. They allowed a man who had already committed unspeakable acts against young boys further access to potential victims for the better part of another decade. As he walked amongst them, sometimes bringing new young boys to their facilities, they did nothing. Those boys suffered.

Why didn’t they do anything? There is no good answer.