Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Lesson in Accountability

Joe Paterno was an American icon. He was in line to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He is the winningest coach in FBS College Football. He stayed at one institution, Pennsylvania State University, one of our nation's first land grant colleges, for over 60 years, 46 as head coach. It is a level of consistency that will be hard to duplicate in our lifetime.

So how is it that a man, who grew up in the same generation as my parents, with that kind of dedication and sense of value, let a person like Jerry Sandusky get away with such a heinous act of human behavior. Maybe he believed that telling Sandusky that he would never become the next head coach at Penn State and Sandusky's subsequent resignation would have squashed it. Maybe he felt he had done enough. If that was the case, he was wrong.

It is one thing to be second-guessed after a football game, and another after the revelation of criminal activity. Joe Pa should have done more than just giving Sandusky a reason to leave Penn State. He should have made sure that the Attorney General of Pennsylvania knew that there was a potential pedophile on his staff and let the authorities take the responsibility of prosecuting him or not. He should not have kept that in the closet, thus promoting the discussion that college football is a closed society, exempt from the rules of the society-at-large.

To his credit, Coach Paterno tendered his resignation for the end of the season. He realized he had made a grave mistake and was willing to pay the price for it. But he should have resigned effective immediately and issued a stronger statement about intolerance for child abuse, sexual or otherwise. Paterno has molded the lives of hundreds of young men in a positive manner. Unfortunately, for those young men who were victims of Mr. Sandusky's actions, Paterno, due to his previous inaction, has adversely affected their lives as well.

Evil is evil and we as human beings have a commitment to stop it. Whether you believe in a God or not, you should know enough to see wrong-doing and act to change or stop it. We are all short of perfection, but that does not mean we allow predators of human beings to roam free. Joe Pa should have turned in Sandusky, plain and simple.

Now an incredible legacy is stained as the Roman Catholic Church was stained. The lesson to be learned is that once you accept accountability you can then move forward. The church has moved forward and is regaining the trust of its parishioners. Now it is Penn State's, and Paterno's, turn.