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.
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.