Why Joe Paterno Shouldn’t Have to Leave

9 Nov

You can call Joe Paterno a coward and I wouldn’t disagree with you.

You can say that if Paterno would have followed through on his report, Jerry Sandusky would have been a sexual predator behind bars instead of a sexual predator roaming campus, luring young boys, and living in the comforts that his Penn State job provided him. You can say that because of the way the allegations against Sandusky were handled, the Penn State name has been tarnished, a cloud has been invited to hover over the famously successful football program, and a myriad of students and alumni are ashamed and disgusted. And again, I wouldn’t disagree with you.

But Joe Paterno shouldn’t have to leave his job unless he wants to; of this I am certain.

For the record, I don’t follow football and I didn’t go to Penn State.  

For those of you unaware of the news that has swept over Happy Valley these past several days, I advise you to Google Jerry Sandusky.  Or if you prefer (and think you can handle the wincing you will undoubtedly do as you read it), here is the Grand Jury Report on the matter.  It’s unpleasant.   It’s the story of young boys being treated badly by a man lacking integrity.

To put it mildly.

There is a rapidly growing consensus that because Paterno did what was required of him by law and no more, he should not stay on as coach of the Penn State football team.  The number of media outlets calling for Joe Paterno’s resignation and/or touting his moral failure include The Tribune Review, the Star-LedgerSports IllustratedNBC SportsESPN RadioThe Altoona Mirror, and a myriad of others.

Perhaps the loudest resonating of these is that of The Patriot News Editorial Board, which featured a front page stating: “There are the obligations we all have to uphold the law. There are then the obligations we all have to do what is right.”

I entirely disagree.

We don’t have any obligation to do what is right.  As a society, we have agreed that we have an obligation to do what is law.  Though we would like to think that people feel morally obligated one way or another above and beyond the call of the law, the fact remains that our obligation insomuch as that we can be held accountable and hold others accountable stops where the law stops.  We are only obligated to do what is required of us, which is exactly what Joe Paterno did.  Having had a report brought to him about Sandusky’s alleged sexually inappropriate act, he reported the matter to his superiors – one of whom (Schulz) was an administrative head of the campus police.

But people don’t disagree that he did what was legally required of him.  In fact, both the Attorney General and the PA State Police Commissioner stated that there has been no legal wrongdoing on the part of Paterno.  The problem is that people believe that when nothing came of the report, Paterno should have done more.   He should have gone above and beyond what was simply required of him and met a higher standard – a super-legal standard – a moralstandard.

For failing this, call him a coward – fine.  Say that he has morally failed – fair.  But you cannot take away a man’s job because of either of those reasons.   

The graduate assistant saw a young boy being raped with his own eyes and yet we do not focus our wrath on him.  Paterno reported the incident to his superiors, who were legally obligated to report it.  They did not.  And yet we are not content to focus our wrath only on them.   We want Joe, because while we agree that he did what was required of him, we believe that what was required of him was not enough. 

I believe that’s our problem as a society, not his. If we want to hold people to a higher standard, then we must improve the state of our legislation.  We must require more of people.  We must see to it that the bare minimum is enough.  Because in examples such as this, that is all people will do and it fails to protect the innocent.

I don’t believe Paterno should have to leave his post as the PSU football coach because I don’t think we should be in the business of asking people to leave their jobs because they fail morally.  Yes, I think he could have and should have done more.  Yes, I think there’s something wrong with the structure of report within the University’s guidelines.  Yes, I think that had something more been done, a plethora of boys could have been spared alleged victimization by Sandusky.

But I don’t think Penn State can implement a reporting structure that has clearly failed and then penalize one of its employees when they fail to go above and beyond that reporting structure.   Likewise, we cannot agree that Paterno did nothing illegal and seek punishment nonetheless.

Joe Paterno did what was required of him and no more.  He could have, and he should have.  We can call him a coward, we can say that he morally failed, but we should not call on him to resign.  

Update: Paterno announced that he would retire at the end of the season in the wake of the PSU scandal, saying that that Board need not spend any time on figuring out how to handle the situation because they had more important matters to address. Sadly, the Board of Trustees at PSU fired Joe Paterno via a hand-delivered letter on Wednesday, November 9th.


35 Responses to “Why Joe Paterno Shouldn’t Have to Leave”

  1. darkpenguin350 November 9, 2011 at 8:21 am #

    “There is a rapidly growing consensus that because Paterno did was required of him by law and no more, ”

    your missing a “what” in there.

    – Josh


    • darkpenguin350 November 9, 2011 at 8:22 am #

      “and an “only”


  2. mistressofpoetry November 9, 2011 at 8:34 am #

    Still a great post though and though this is the first I’ve read about this, since I normally don’t keep up with these kinds of things, I agree. It could have been any one of us in a similar situation. His superiors failed to do their part, so why should he be forced to lose his livelihood when he did what was required?


    • Jackie November 11, 2011 at 12:32 am #

      This is about to get much bigger (as if that was possible, right?) – there are a lot of questions and loose ends here, including a missing DA who was declared dead with no body found. He was once investigating Sandusky. Lots to get through here – read up on it because it’s not going away.

      Luckily, Paterno made a cool mill a year. He donated over 4 back to the university, and has a spiritual center and library left in his path. I’m sure that helped the decision-making. Because he was so powerful and wealthy, they didn’t have to feel an ounce of remorse about kicking an 84-year-old man who gave his entire life to his employer to the curb with a letter.


  3. Katherine Gordy Levine November 9, 2011 at 9:40 am #

    dark, why correct grammar on such a pithy issue? And twice? To me this repeats the problem J is trying to discuss, not addressing what matters. Too often we look for scape-goals instead of dealing with issues. Grammar checking is one way that is done. You may be making a more subtle point that I missed, if so I apologize.

    I have been in Paterno’s boots–mainly as a social worker reporting abuse to a large urban child welfare organization that rarely did the harder thing. My staff often didn’t want to report because nothing would be done so why bother.

    I bother for two reasons, As J points out it is the law and then sometimes, just sometimes those I reported to did the right thing.

    My husband and I just watched Akira Kurosawe’s masterpiece Ikiro. Applies here.

    I tend to do what I do to live with myself. Sometimes that means I do more than is required by law, sometimes just that. I am, however of the conviction that if most of us did what reasonable laws and just did our jobs and tried to be kind, we might create a better world without any one going above and beyond. Then again you may this think me a Wearisome Old Woman.

    PS. if all you really want is practice correctly grammar, read my blog it should fill your days with delight.


    • Jackie November 11, 2011 at 12:29 am #

      I think he was just trying to help. I haven’t been editing as thoroughly as I used to for the sake of time, so I appreciate the second eye though I regret that it’s necessary.

      I find it interesting that you bring your social work perspective to this – I think people need to get real about how often things like this are overlooked or dismissed. Not that it excuses what’s been done here, but people are acting like no one could possibly not follow up – and the truth is it happens all the time. Hopefully this will help spark a change in that.


  4. darkpenguin350 November 9, 2011 at 10:46 am #

    Just trying to help… I deleted my FB account; else I’d have just messaged her there.


    • darkpenguin350 November 9, 2011 at 10:46 am #

      And it’s a correction to the same sentence, it’s missing 2 words is all. the article is fine. nothing deeper!


    • Jackie November 11, 2011 at 12:27 am #

      Thanks, dark. I truly appreciate it – especially a catch early on before the Google hits come. Plus, this got some pretty heavy Fbook traffic and I’m glad they didn’t see the typo version.


  5. Anita S November 9, 2011 at 10:57 am #

    You make some good points here. The law is often used to legislate morality — or to try, anyway — but the reason we have law is so that there is some consensus of what morality is. If people think an individual in Paterno’s situation is obligated to do more than what he did, perhaps they should change the law.
    In the meantime, why isn’t anyone questioning the people he reported to? As you mentioned, they didn’t even bother to obey the law.


    • Jackie November 11, 2011 at 12:25 am #

      Well, they certainly have questioned them, and they lied in front of a grand jury. Of course by now you’re probably aware that they’ve all resigned. The whole thing is just.. almost too much for words. I like that it has America talking about what’s important and weeding through these issues together – but I really wish that more folks could take the time to discuss it respectfully and intelligently. Lashing out is a waste of words and passion.


  6. Neil C. Reinhardt November 9, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    While I was certainly not a “good” Football Player, (my sport was swimming and I was a Life Guard / Water Safety Instructor, Scuba and Deep Sea Diver) ) I did go out for practice and was a guy who “played” football for four years in High School and for two years in Junior College. Plus, I do love the sport.

    Is Paterno a Coward?

    In this case, there is Insufficent evidence. His not following through does not prove he is, or he is not one,

    Did Paterno have any obligation to follow through?

    Legally? NO!

    Morally? YES!

    Should Paterno be Fired?


    Should Perterno be given a “Free Ride”?

    NO! (And he hasn’t had one.)

    Should Paterno resign?



    A. Because there is sometimes a big difference between doing the “Legal” thing and doing the RIGHT and the MORAL thing.

    B. Because any coach who is NOT coaching older and/or professional athletes. should be a person who SETS a GOOD example!

    As Perteno did not follow up to assure justice was done, others suffered! And, very sadly, due to their young age and/or their psychological makeup, they may suffer for the rest of their lives.

    IF I knew of someone doing what that sick jerk did, I would not stop pursuing it until he was in jail where he belongs!


    I submit that, depending on the person’s age and their psychological makeup, as well as some other factors, like any violence involved, being raped may not be such a huge dramatic, life changing experience for ALL as most would think.

    Now before anyone get all excited about my above statement and my not knowing what I am talking about, I can assure you, I DO know!

    I KNOW as I was once Drugged and Raped!


  7. Lori November 9, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

    I was wondering if you were going to write on this. Thanks for doing so. I’m really angry that there’s so much focus on JoePa and not on Sandusky… or the victims, for that matter. I’ve decided to focus my anger toward a constructive cause (which I urge you to maybe write about?): http://www.d2l.org/site/c.4dICIJOkGcISE/b.6035035/k.8258/Prevent_Child_Sexual_Abuse.htm


    • Jackie November 11, 2011 at 12:23 am #

      Thanks for the link, Lori – I urge everyone to check out this cause and any others that you want to get behind or rally with in light of the passion this has fired up for us all.


  8. thesinglecell November 9, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

    Okay. Deep breath.

    To answer Anita: the people Paterno reported to ARE being questioned. In fact, they’re being charged with perjury for lying to the grand jury, and with failure to report the abuse (read the 23-page report Jackie attached – you’ll know the whole story then from a legal perspective). There is a question, as Jackie pointed out, as to whether they even should be charged with failure to report abuse; the law actually reads that, because the children were subjects of The Second Mile organization and Sandusky abused them while working in his capacity as one of the Second Mile staff, it is the Second Mile that has the obligation, legally, to report it.

    But that’s not good enough, because screw the law; we’re all human, they were all men and they know what happened. Mike McQueary knows what he saw, and Joe Paterno knows what McQueary saw, and Tim Curley (the athletic director) and Gary Schulz (the VP who oversaw the Athletic Department) know what Paterno and McQueary told them, and they lied to the grand jury about it.

    I have been a PSU football fan, and a devoted, loyal JoePa fan, my entire life. And I think he should go. Immediately.

    For those who are not fully aware of how college football works in major schools (Big 10, ACC, SEC, Big East, Pac-10, etc), there is a question of recruiting. If Paterno – and, I believe, McQueary – stay on, nobody is going to want their kid to go play for them. They tolerated an abominable behavior and did almost nothing to stop it, according to the grand jury investigation. Is Paterno the person ultimately responsible? Maybe not. But he is the face of the organization and has been for more than half a century, and that means major, major damage to the brand at this point. Kids play at PSU because they want to play for JoePa, to be part of the legacy. If you can’t recruit because parents know that the coaching staff allowed one of their own to repeatedly rape and molest several children – often on PSU property – you’re going to lose high school’s most promising players, and you’re going to (the all-important element in Big 10 football) lose money. From a business perspective alone, that is why Paterno needs to go.

    From a legal standpoint: it’s not illegal to be willfully ignorant of anything. But it’s still wrong. These were KIDS. This was a COACH. There were OTHER KIDS. People saw Sandusky with young kids at PSU’s facilities all the time. He founded (and selected his victims from) a charity organization created to work with at-risk kids. He preyed on children who may have lacked the strength, the family support, the sense of self to deny him his advances or to report what he did. And EVERYBODY KNEW IT.

    They all should go. Immediately. Because there is no other way for PSU to look like they care about a staff member raping children.

    Neil: I am tremendously sorry for what happened to you, and while I can understand the idea that maybe it doesn’t affect everyone the same way, I would hope no one would be content to wait and see how much it hurt each of the nine known victims before we decide on how to treat Sandusky, et al.

    Apologies, Jackie, for the lengthy comment. But I felt strongly that it needed to be said here.


    • Jackie November 11, 2011 at 12:20 am #

      Don’t apologize for length, especially when so well-stated. I really appreciate the note about him as a recruiter in here and the effects Paterno’s staying could have on future recruits.


  9. Neil C. Reinhardt November 9, 2011 at 12:40 pm #


    Sadly, it seems that as far as written language, you are an anal retentive nit picker! One who very obviously does not not know what the PRIMARY PURPOSE of a language is! Thus, I shall edify you.

    The PRIMARY PURPOSE of Language IS to effectively communicate a desired message from one, to one or more, others.

    ANY TIME this has been, as it most certainly was in this case, successfully accomplished, then such unimportant things such as correct grammar and or perfect spelling are NOT germaine, they are of NO importance!

    The facts are, the truth is, more than a few things written using PERFECT Grammar and Spelling, DO NOT successfully communicate a desired message to ALL of those reading it. And thus, and in spite of all this “perfectness” they FAIL the Primary Purpose of language.

    Famed & Best Selling Author Leon Uris once said something to the effect of:

    “While maybe I can’t Subjugate and Conjugate,
    I sure can communicate.”

    And, SO can Jackie!

    She not only communicates, she does so very well!


    • Jackie November 11, 2011 at 12:18 am #

      Neil, I appreciate you coming to my defense on this, as we are all prone to typos. But could we refrain from calling other readers names? I think he was just trying to help, and even if he wasn’t, anal-retentive is a bit harsh.

      Thank you for the compliments that are weaved in there – I do appreciate it.


      • Neil C. Reinhardt November 11, 2011 at 2:21 am #

        Hi Jackie,

        SORRY, I have a habit of saying what I think.

        Still, in this case, I did not. Had I, the words,
        “Sadly and “it seems that as far as written language,” would have not preceded the rest of my comment..


        Thank You. While I do not know why being drugged and raped was not as traumatic to me as I and most would think it would be as I was 21 at the time and I had just graduated from the Advanced Infantry NCO School at Ft Benning, Ga, may be part of the reason.

        I certainly really feel sorry for all others who have had such experiences and I feel very fortunate it has not had any negative effects on me which I am aware of.


        This Agnostic Atheist Activist says our media is, very sadly, mostly made of lying, leftist, liberals who care less about being fair, impartial and accurate in their reporting. They slant the news, over report any bad things & also either under report, or as about Iraq, do not report any of the good things which happen at all.

        Some examples of the media’s incompetence are the following:

        Not telling the truth about how Geo. Bush tried, seventeen times, a McCain tried twice, to get Congress to take steps to control Fannie May /
        Freddie Mac before what happened, happened.

        Each and every time both Bush and McCain were stopped by the Dumocrats, led by Barney Frank and Obama (And FYI, Oduma received a LOT more $$ from Fannie May / Freddie Mac than did any Republicans I know of.)

        (The Wall Street mess is the result of both Republican’s and Dumocrat’s.)

        Not reporting how Obama attended, for some 20 years, a church where HATE of Whites and America was preached. Or how his own words in his own books prove he is a racist.

        Of how some of Obama’s close friends are domestic terrorists who robbed our banks, bombed private firms as well as government facilities, military installations. Police Stations, Police cars and who killed our law enforcement officers.

        In fact, the only difference between Obama’s good friends Dorn / Ayers and Bin Laden is the number of Dead Americans!

        The Media’s NOT telling the truth about the many reasons which PROVE the Iraq War is not only Fully Justified, it is a very necessary part of our world wide war on Moslem terrorists who have been killing our friends, allies and we Americans for over 40 years!

        In 2003, I put together a list of 17 Facts which
        PROVE the above. I DEFY anyone to prove even one of them is not true much less all 17 of them.

        IF anyone either wants to read them and/or wants waste their time attempting to prove me wrong, e-me at: religionsucks@webtv.net and I will be most happy to send them to you.

        Anyone who thinks myself, & many other Vets, would support an un justified war where our fellow service people are being wounded and killed are much less than intelligent.

        Last, as Pat Tillman proved, Yes Virginia, there are Atheists in Foxholes! In fact, it’s estimated
        as high as 20% of all those on Active Duty are, as I was, during my ten years of active reserves and active duty time, Atheists.


  10. River Mud November 9, 2011 at 10:12 pm #

    So basically, your opinion is that children, while visiting a college campus in the care of a college employee, deserve no protection or reprisal from being raped by those same college staff? That it’s equallynobody’s duty to tell the police.

    That there’s no moral obligation to do what is right As state employees at a university that takes tens of millions of dollars of federal funds every year. No moral obligation.

    I highly recommend you try that at work – wherever you work. The over/under on you getting fired would be about 3.1 weeks. If someone tells you that someone has been stabbed in the bathroom, and a killer is on the loose, simply email your boss and return to surfing the web at work. No moral obligation.

    Back to the issue. I agree with you on one point – Paterno should NOT be the focus. Nor should he be excluded from the net that will result in the unemployment of everyone from PSU’s president to numerous assistant coaches. He has bought this outcome by his lack of action. But he’s just one.

    Each one of those men absolutely had a moral duty to report. Paterno has now admitted it, on television. The focus on this being some “vast conspiracy” is (at least for now) very overblown and unfair to all involved.

    This should be a time for the PSU community to take stock of what has happened, and to heal. Not to worry about how many more games San Paterno will get to coach.


    • mistressofpoetry November 9, 2011 at 11:52 pm #

      That’s a good question. Why weren’t the police called to begin with?

      Been learning more about this issue through the comments, since I failed to read about it via the normal channels. I understand now why they were calling for him to leave. It just sucks because it appears that he was the only one to do anything at all, from what I am reading. The police most definitely should have been called immediately by the guy who actually witnessed this, followed by a good fist pounding on the perpetrator to get him off the kid, or perhaps the other way around, provided that the guy was not known to be dangerous. It would have been a very fine thing to see a citizen’s arrest after so long a time, or did that right get taken from us at some point? Or is that type of thing only in the movies? Goodness knows. Now I need to google.


      • Jackie November 11, 2011 at 12:07 am #

        Indeed; he was the only one who did anything whatsoever. And honestly, I can understand how someone reporting something about a person with whom you have built a relationship as being dismissed. It’s unfortunate, and I’m not saying it’s excusable, but I get it. But to see with your very own eyes… and not… I just can’t fathom it.


    • Jackie November 11, 2011 at 12:12 am #

      Okay, River. Of course I don’t agree with that statement at the beginning. And I’m not saying there isn’t a moral obligation – *I* certainly feel morally obligated to do things and I’m sure you do too. I’m saying we can’t punish people based on what we believe they should have done morally. We can only punish them to the extent of the law.

      I think your hypothetical situation is a little off – he brought the witness and his father to his home along with his superiors. Emailing is far more ridiculous, but I understand that Paterno’s reaction to you was absurd and so you offered me an absurd situation in return.

      At any rate, what’s done has been done. I do think it’s interesting to switch roles and make Paterno the Assistant and some no-name Paterno. I don’t things would have panned out even remotely the same way.


  11. notanotherrandomgirl November 10, 2011 at 12:58 am #

    I’m going to PSU this spring and all my friends who are there already are really upset about him being fired.


    • Jackie November 11, 2011 at 12:05 am #

      I can’t imagine what the team is feeling going into the game this weekend. The pressure and mixed emotions and incredible distraction. It’s going to be a hell of a game. And I don’t mean that in the fun way.


  12. Cindy Bahn November 10, 2011 at 12:52 pm #

    The bottom line is that Pennsylvania is an “at-will” employment state – Paterno could have been fired for not doing what many
    think he should have, for not winning more football titles, for wearing green socks on Friday, as long as he wasn’t fired for reasons of race, religion, age, or another legally-protected status.


    • Jackie November 10, 2011 at 11:48 pm #

      Very true, very true. Certainly wouldn’t mean it would be the right thing to do but absolutely they have very ability to do as they please.


  13. Mrkleen November 15, 2011 at 11:37 am #

    Jackie…Sad and pathetic.

    Joe Paterno is the CEO of the Penn State Football program. One of his employees was raping children IN HIS LOCKER ROOM…yet you don’t see his obligation to do something about it?

    If someone you worked with, scratch that – if someone who reported to you rapped a female coworker, would you tell your boss or call the police? Better yet, if 3 days later the police had not been called – would you go back to your desk saying “well I did my part”???

    No, you call the police immediately; remove that person from your building; and comfort the victim. Joe Paterno did NONE of the above, yet you are defending him still?



    • Jackie November 22, 2011 at 12:26 am #

      I’m simply saying that as a society we can’t punish people based on morals; we have to punish them based on the law.

      And actually, people tend not to report these things. I’d like to think I would, but who knows when in the situation. There was well-written article on it in the Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/15/opinion/brooks-lets-all-feel-superior.html

      I think sad and pathetic are a little harsh. It’s opinion and I respect and appreciate you sharing yours.


      • Mrkleen November 23, 2011 at 11:15 am #

        David Brooks…another classic, right wing hypocrite. He is all for small government, less regulation, more autonomy – yet when a person like Joe Paterno – who has more authority than nearly anyone in college sports, drops the ball and lets his friend and long time direct report commit crimes on his campus – Brooks (and you) do not want to hold him accountable.

        So which is it? Do you want free markets where people are free to do what they think is right – and when they fail they are held accountable? Or do you want a more closely regulated market – which additional checks and balances, where there are many people responsible for important decisions?

        You cant have it both ways – which is EXACTLY what it is so hypocritical to defend Joe Pa at this point. He made his bed. He refused to defend all of those children who were raped by his employee. And now that it is coming to light, he looks like a creep and potentially a criminal.

        Nice legacy there Joe.


        • Neil C. Reinhardt November 23, 2011 at 8:18 pm #

          Well MR. KLEEN

          This 76 year old Agnostic Atheist Activist and 101st Airborne Vet who is not only much more experienced and more knowledgeable than are most my age, as well as being much smarter than over 97% of the world, sez:

          Being for is small government, less regulation, and more autonomy as well as supporting the Tea Party and their three basic tenets are the rational, intelligent and logical way things to do.

          So IS having some compassion for Paturno!

          FYI, Joe Paterno did NOT “refuse” “to defend all of those children who were raped by his employee.” RATHER, he FAILED to follow thru as he should have.

          And while Paterno did NOT break any laws, PATERNO HAS MOST CERTAINLY BEEN HELD ACCOUNTABLE!

          He is a person who, while he made a major screw up, as also suffered very greatly for doing so. His family is not only suffering for it now, they will be doing so for many years to come.



  14. Megan Breaux November 24, 2011 at 12:19 pm #

    I found (from an INCREDIBLY unlikely source) a well composed and well researched blog post that essentially outlines the link between homophobic organizations in which adults have “ultimate authority” over children and pedophilia. I think if more people understood the reality that pedophilia is incur able, dangerous, and facilitated by these organizations, more of them would come under scrutiny. Click here to read it for yourself http://bit.ly/tNvUjh .


    • Neil C. Reinhardt November 24, 2011 at 4:25 pm #


      While I feel sorry for and pity pedophiles as I am sure they, just like homosexuals, are born being the way they are, I think when we catch them, we should give them a choice between death, and castration.

      And FYI, if the god of the Christians (one of 25,000 gods humans have invented, named and worshipped so far) does not rally like homosexuals, then their god should stop creating them in about every species of living things we know of


    • Jackie December 4, 2011 at 5:35 pm #

      I disagree with your opinion of the article, but I do appreciate you contributing to the conversation – thank you!



  1. Friday Five « Erin Flew the Coop - November 18, 2011

    […] The Jackie Blog Naturally my post-a-day homegirl had something to say about the happenings in Happy Valley. She got me to consider whether morals should be part of the work force and if we as a society decide that is the case, to apply it across the board. Something tells me we wouldn’t like it. See her post here. […]


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