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One decision cannot erase 61 years of a life

January 23, 2012
Weirton Daily Times

I have read a ton of tweets, Facebook and other Internet comments on what Joe Paterno didn't do.

There are a lot of bitter people out there who swear Paterno, who died at 85 Sunday morning, should have gone above and beyond about the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal.

You know, folks, Paterno said the same thing himself.

"I didn't know which way to go ... and rather than get in there and make a mistake," Paterno told The Washington Post in an interview nine days before his death.

"You know, (McQueary) didn't want to get specific," Paterno said. "And to be frank with you I don't know that it would have done any good, because I never heard of, of, rape and a man. So I just did what I thought was best. I talked to people that I thought would be, if there was a problem, that would be following up on it.

"This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."

I have read a lot of "what ifs" and "whys."

The answer to all those is "we don't know."

We don't know all the circumstances involved in the case.

We don't know when, if true, when it started and when it ended.

We don't know.

But, it appears everybody knows that buck should have stopped with JoePa and no one else.


Let him lie in peace.

I do know that one decision that most of you apparently hate shouldn't erase the 61 years he spent making Penn State a better place for football players, other athletes and students.

It wasn't wrong for the chancellors to fire Paterno on Nov. 9, although he told them he would retire at the end of the season.

They chose to cut ties right then, which was their right.

But, to do it over the phone - to fire a man who had lived and breathed Penn State University for 61 years - was pathetic.

It was wrong how it was handled.

It was handled childishly.

It was handled without class.

It was handled, at best, unjustifiably poorly.

He was asked to step down after the 2004 season and said no.

Yes, he had a lot of impact on the Happy Valley campus.

He had a lot of power.

He was the man.

And, people want to know why he didn't yield that power in the Sandusky case.

He should have talked to the police himself.

He should not have handed off the baton, but kept it himself.

He should have ... He shouldn't have ...

We don't know the truth.

We don't know any lies.

We won't know a lot about any of this, really, until the trial ends.

It appears a lot of people are saying that nothing about his life before or after that day in 2002 counts.

It appears that the thousands of young men and women he helped as students and athletes at Penn State mean nothing because he didn't take that extra step in 2002.

The way it looks to me right now, far too many firmly feel that JoePa is a bigger villain than Sandusky.

The fact that he graduated 87 percent of his players, tying Stanford for the top rank, means nothing.

The fact that he and his wife Sue helped raise millions of dollars for the university, aiding in the growth of it being a major research institution, means nothing.

In August 2004, former Penn State President Graham Spanier called Paterno "a brilliant man, the school's greatest ambassador, the school's best fund-raiser and a philanthropist."

We've all fallen short and we will all continue to fall short.

He sure doesn't need to be judged by us.

God has already done that.

From sports writer John Perrotto: "I only met Joe Paterno once, many years ago in the press box at Hersheypark Stadium when he asked if he could sit in an unoccupied seat next to mine during a Big 33 game.

"He extended his hand and said, 'Hi, I'm Joe Paterno. I'm the football coach at Penn State.' His humbleness shocked me and it's what I prefer to remember about the man.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at

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