When Joe Paterno passed away last January, it was said that the Penn State football coach died of a broken heart. Now it seems he is lucky he died when he did.
No college coach ever won more games than Paterno, and none has ever fallen so hard in disgrace. Instead of a legendary career, he leaves behind an earthquake of damage. Paterno’s name will never be said again without reference to his role in the coverup of a decades-long pedophile scandal. If he were alive, he might be facing indictment because of new information about what he knew and when he knew it.
The NCAA sanctions announced Monday, including a $60 million fine and a reduction in athletic scholarships, are harsh, but university leaders accepted them in a bid to move the institution away from the sordid saga.
As someone who grew up in the shadow of Penn State, I can attest that Paterno was a demi-god in central Pennsylvania. His teams won, and they won the right way.
Or so we thought. For what happened on the field has now been destroyed by what happened off the field. In turning away as young boys were molested by a former assistant, Paterno and others failed the test of decency.
That failure is hard to square with the Paterno legend, but we don’t have to bother trying. By vacating his victories from 1998 to 2011, the NCAA has erased his singular achievement of having the most wins.
It’s a punishment that fits the crime.