Joe Paterno's legacy is now a very sad one

The findings of an investigation that he failed to take action to stop a serial child molester overshadows all he accomplished.


Joe Paterno's legacy is now tarnished.

The impressive record he had coaching Penn State football teams for 61 years -- 45 as head coach -- and the respect and admiration he earned from his players now seem unimportant to the suffering of the children who were abused by Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky for more than a decade.

A 267-report was released Thursday on the investigation of the Sandusky scandal led by former FBI Director Louis Freeh. The report asserts that Paterno and senior Penn State officials -- including the university president -- made decisions aimed at protecting Sandusky to avoid damaging the image of the school and its powerful football program.

The investigation, which included combing through more than 3 million emails and documents, showed Paterno was more deeply involved in the university's response to 1998 and 2001 abuse complaints about Sandusky than previously thought. Ultimately, the report found, Paterno and Penn State officials did nothing -- and their inaction allowed the molesting to continue.

Some continue to defend Paterno out of love and loyalty.

But the sad fact is Paterno, who was an icon with the power to stop Sandusky, did not do enough to stop the monster who has done incredible damage to these boys and their families. Paterno himself said he wished he had done more. He could have done more.

Paterno built his coaching legacy on doing things the right way. That makes this report even more disturbing. Paterno did not live up to the standards he set for his players.

Paterno is human. We all make mistakes.

Paterno's friend of more than 40 years and another legendary coach, Bobby Bowden of Florida State, put it in perspective. He said Thursday that Penn State should remove the statue of Paterno outside the football stadium.

"Every time they show that statue on TV, people won't remember the good years," Bowden said. "They're only going to remember the things with Sandusky. I still love Joe, and I still love his family, but Joe made a mistake, like all of us do. But this was a big one. I'm so sorry it happened."

It would seem wise to remove the statue.

Paterno is no longer seen as only the beloved coach with 61 years of service to Penn State, but the coach who turned a blind eye to serial child molestation. That's a very sad legacy.


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