As we await the arraignment of Curley and Schultz in Harrisburg at 2 pm, I wanted to quickly pass on some thoughts about Joe Paterno and Graham Spanier, with respect to how they might fare as the weeks wear on in the shadow of Showergate.
I’ve spent many years in state universities, both working there and going to school there. I’ve seen university presidents and football coaches come and go. I think I have a feel for who will stay and who will go, although I’m no more qualified than anyone else to opine on that subject. In the wake of the present serious and disgraceful scandal at Penn State, I my opinion is that both head coach Joe Paterno and president Graham Spanier will continue on in their positions until they are personally ready to retire.
I’ve likened Spanier to Bill Clinton before. He’s a master politician with strong, well cultivated ties in Harrisburg. Nothing really sticks to him that he wants to shrug off. He’s very intelligent, although he has made a couple of miss-steps in this case. A powerful man at the head of an organization, whether that organization is in turmoil or not, will be hard to bring down. Who is going to force Spanier to resign? The Board of Trustees could, but won’t. Spanier simply has too much power in Harrisburg. The governor? I’m not sure there. Interesting proposition, as he has stated that he will attend the public meeting of the Board of Trustees. Of course he will, to cover his own ass. But I think in the end he’ll support Spanier instead of attempting to give him the ax.
Paterno vows to leave on his own terms, and has maintained that posture for as long as I can remember. He is the Godfather, the Tony Soprano of Penn State football. He brings in lots and lots of money, which gives him lots and lots of power in Harrisburg. This has been tested over and over again. He did what the law said he should do, which was to report the incident to his “boss”, Tim Curley. (“Boss” is in quotes because Paterno has known Curley since he was a boy, was instrumental in getting him hired, and has subjugated him to a sycophant role.) Paterno will be protected by Spanier and by Harrisburg. You’ve already seen the state attorney pat him on the head for doing the right thing regarding Showergate. That office unequivocally stated that Paterno is not a defendant and will not be. This is not to say that anyone can’t see through what happened. I’m sure that even those in Harrisburg who feel obligated to protect Joe feel that he had a moral obligation to do much more to ensure that justice was done, particularly because of the youths and their families. Hanging onto power comes first with Joe, in spite of what his statement (co-written by son Scott, who is an attorney) might have said. Public outcry might be fierce, but Joe has lived through fierce public outcry before. I don’t think he’s going anywhere.
Spanier and Paterno are content to let Curley and Schultz take the fall. However, Spanier, Paterno, and the Board of Trustees left the door open, at least for Curley. (Schultz is merely reverting to his formerly retired state.) Curley is not fired. He hasn’t resigned. He’s merely on administrative leave while he’s ostensibly working on his legal defense. This leaves the Spanier/Paterno/BOT continuum the option of letting things cool down and quietly reinstating Curley, or if things get too hot, severing the ties. It’s probably appropriate that he doesn’t get fired while “we let the legal system do its job”, but of course, if he’s convicted of perjury, he’ll get the axe. If he is merely convicted of the summary offense of not reporting the Showergate incident, he could still wind up keeping his job if Paterno and Spanier want him there.
I might be full of beans (I just had some chili for lunch), but this is the way I see it. These guys didn’t build their nuclear arsenal to not use it when it appears that all-out war will break out.