So Long JoePa

Posted: November 10, 2011 in Uncategorized

The majority of my posts have attempted to offer a humorous, laidback approach to professional sports.  I guess you could say I’m not exactly a serious person, unless I’m defending my home town Blazers or challenging anyone who disagrees with the FACT that LeBron James is the BEST player in the NBA.  Unfortunately, there are times as a journalist when writing about the news can be depressing and downright painful.  This is one of those times.

Joe Paterno is, or was considered to be one of the most successful and celebrated college football coaches of all time.  Paterno has a long list of achievements including the record for the most victories by an FBS football coach with 409.  His tenure as head coach at Penn State has lasted 62 seasons, dating back to 1950 when he first joined the coaching staff as an assistant. Check out his Wikipedia page to get an idea of how long this dude has been around. Joe Paterno

If there was ever a coach that deserved your respect and gratitude it was Joe Paterno, or JoePa as Lions fans might say.  It’s hard to imagine that such an honorable career could be tarnished in a matter of days.  Relax people; I’m not saying his legacy is ruined just yet.  However, as this story unravels it’s hard to imagine that Paterno can defend his innocence in such a horrific scandal.  I’d rather not discuss the details of the tragic events involving the Penn State coaching staff because it makes me sick to my stomach.

In short, the claim being made is that children were sexually abused by a former Penn State coach, who at the time was under direct supervision of JoePa.  Although Paterno was not directly involved in the abuse, sources say he was confronted about the issue and was aware of what had taken place.  So why blame Paterno?  Oh, there are plenty of reasons.

This statue of Joe Paterno stands outside the football stadium at Penn State University. After tarnishing his legacy and being fired as head coach, will the statue remain? Photo credit to Audrey Smith.

Apparently Paterno reported the information to university officials and moved on with his job like nothing had ever happened.  He NEVER called the police, NEVER filed a complaint, and NEVER even approached the accused coach about what he heard.  In other words, he covered his ass and let someone else deal with it.  If you can’t tell, I’m pissed off.  It’s people like Paterno that I have no respect for and I never will.  I can’t comprehend how someone can ignore such serious claims, especially when they involve sexual abuse of a child.

Due to the fact that Joe Paterno is one of the most significant figures in college sports today, the Penn State scandal has been in the national spotlight since the story broke, less than a week ago.   University officials have been scrambling around trying to determine how to handle this situation, but the damage has been done.  Lives have been changed forever, most significantly the victims who were abused.  Penn State University must accept responsibility for the actions of its employees and the typical PR approach may not be the solution.  Hell, there is no solution for what took place.

My education in the School of Journalism at the University of Oregon has provided me with resources that explain how to use PR when dealing with controversy.  In all of the books that I have read, exams taken, and papers that I have written; was I ever presented with a problem as serious as the events that took place at Penn State University?   My guess is that whoever is in charge of PR at Penn State won’t be getting much sleep anytime soon.  My prayers are with the victims.


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