Monday, January 23, 2012

Joe Paterno's Broken Legacy

The greatest coach in all of college sports is John Wooden.  This is a statement of fact, not opinion.  The famed UCLA basketball coach based his career, both on and off the court, on 15 "Building Blocks" which he called the "Pyramid of Success."  The one that stands out the most to me is "Be At Your Best When Your Best Is Needed."

It's a message that resonates beyond sports.  It can be incorporated into any facet of life.

If John Wooden is the greatest coach ever, Joe Paterno isn't too far behind and is probably the best in college football history.  However, after a career in which he lived and coached in step with Wooden's famed mantra, the one time he didn't likely cost Joe Pa's permanent legacy.

Joe Paterno passed away this weekend at the age of 85.  I was always a fan of his.   I grew up in Big Ten country and watched Paterno put together quality teams, for the most part, year-after-year.  Even when people thought he was washed up and the game had passed he and his coaching style by, Paterno responded with superb seasons and proved doubters wrong.

Simply put, on the field, Joe Paterno knew how to win.  In fact, he knew how to do so better than any coach in College Football history.

But, the scandal that cost him his job paints a grayer picture of a career that otherwise would be defined as a masterpiece.  The sexual abuse allegations against his former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, of which Paterno allegedly knew about but failed to act on appropriately, make Paterno look more like a man who put football ahead of life.

No one can argue Penn State's legendary coach changed the lives of countless individuals.  If a person impacts the lives of one-one-hundredth of those that Paterno did, they have lived a great life.   But, Paterno also turned his back on those who needed him the most, child victims.

We all make mistakes.  No one is perfect.  It's easy to forgive those who try to make amends for their setbacks and there in lies the problem with Paterno.

Joe Pa never tried to correct the mistake of not reporting what he heard about Sandusky until it came out publicly.  He tried to mask a serious problem that he knew would ruin his program's otherwise sterling reputation.  Paterno put his legacy and Penn State's in front of doing what was right and that is inexcusable.  Not only did he not try to help vulnerable kids when he first heard of the allegations, but he sat on the information for nearly a decade and therefore allowed these heinous crimes to continue, when they could have easily been avoided.

Paterno led Penn State to 409 wins, two National Championships, a multitude of conference titles, and 24 Bowl victories, but he failed to lead when it was most needed and those are the moments that define a career and life.

1 comment:

  1. Sam, Sam, Sam. Do not join the ignorant, TMQ media. The man got a second hand report. He alerted his higher-up AND the head of campus police. Campus police in Happy Valley is not a small operation. In fact, it has almost the same number of armed officers as the local police, and likely has more time for this sort of investigation. THEY took it from there and conducted an investigation, which is their job. JoPa continued to coach football and graduate his players. What was he supposed to do? Run to the media and report this? There is a assumption of innocence in this country. It is easy to play Tuesday Morning QB, but what if he did run to the media or even more police officers and the second hand report was wrong? Then he ruins his relationship with what he thought was a friend and makes the university to which he dedicated his life look bad. Again, it is easy to look back now and say he should have done more, but at the time, he did the right thing.