Writing something like this is not just difficult, it's painful. And even though I know it has nothing to do with UK Athletics, it has everything to do with UK Athletics. Joe Paterno is out at Penn State. It's not before his time, as his time might have actually passed years ago. But more than that, it is just beyond belief that he is embroiled in this disgusting display of standing on the sidelines when his players were at risk, not from an opponent on the gridiron, but from within.
Joe Paterno was one of my heroes. No one had more respect than I did for not just what he accomplished, but how he did it. He ran what not just some, but most who know anything about college athletics, a really clean program, with a few minor bumps along the road. But no NCAA scandal could have done to Paterno what he did to himself simply by not doing something as simple as picking up the phone. Some will say that anyone faced with what Paterno was faces not a simple choice, but a complicated one. But therein lies the problem that should become a red flag the size of Pennsylvania from here on out. How much does trust play into this situation? What about loyalty?
We value loyalty at UK above a lot of other virtues. And someone saying, "That could never happen at Kentucky" is just kidding themselves by avoiding the obvious. There is virtually no oversight when it comes to coaches, players, recruits, camp attendees, or other personnel when it comes to this type of thing. The law makes it illegal, but where was the law here? Ignored in the face of a sense of loyalty and disbelief? Allowed to be set aside to keep the Boys Club of Penn State intact for the purposes of maintaining an image that Paterno himself created?
This display needs to be pounded into every coach's head, every administrator's head, and every person involved with any program nationwide so that no one can ever allow this to happen again. The fact that it was an Assistant Coach at a high profile University like Penn State should tell everyone that it not only can happen here, it just might. We value our reputation here at UK as much as anywhere, in spite of those who mock it due to happenings in the past. So is it outside the bounds of reality to think that a cover up of this proportion could happen here?
We need to make sure that it doesn't happen ever again anywhere. And whatever needs to be done to make that happen needed to be done decades ago. No one can legislate morality, but kids have to be protected somehow. And the really amazing thing is that the students at Penn State, who could be at the most risk in this kind of a situation, are not just defending Paterno, they are doing so vehemently. Why? All love for a sports icon aside, is this disbelief?
Seeing that display of those Penn State students last night brings to mind others who have seen their careers allowed to be wallowed in disgust at or near the end. Paterno joins a long list of others who allowed themselves to put their own personal gain above that of those they are placed in care of. Paterno joins Bobby Knight, Woody Hayes and others in a line of those who allowed stellar careers to be marred by their own hubris. Morality must overcome position when it comes to protecting others who are in harm's way because they stand between a coach's legacy and right and wrong.
Writing that line reminded me of the scene in the movie of the same title where John Wayne learns of Kirk Douglas' characters raping of a young woman, then flying off to die in a blaze of glory. Wayne's character in the film "In Harm's Way" had already made his choice and when asked about recommending a Congressional Medal Of Honor, Wayne simply says, "No, no recommendation." But in this case, that's not good enough. Allowing Paterno to ride off into the sunset without making him answer to those he was put in a position of protecting is wrong. And yes, those under Jerry Sandusky's charge were Paterno's to protect, once he was made aware of what had happened. The facts here are simple, even though the story is not. But the facts are what need to be put out in the light of day here. Those who were abused are due at least that.