It bothered me that this morning Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany announced that former Nittany Lions head coach Joe Paterno’s name would be removed from the conference championship trophy that was originally named for him and Amos Alonzo Stagg. Now it will be just the Stagg Trophy instead of the Stagg-Paterno Trophy.
I suppose what this means is that we can expect a de-Paternoization campaign similar to the USSR’s de-Stalinization purge following Joseph Stalin’s death at the behest of Premier Nikita Khrushchev. Delany, the Khrushchev of the Big Ten, effectively started the ball rolling. Who knows how far it will go before the media feeding frenzy dies down and life at Penn State returns to normal? Until that time, nothing in Paterno’s body of work and nothing honoring him in the past, present, or future will be exempt. We’ll probably also see a purge to remove any associates of Joe’s who might still exist at Penn State. I don’t think any of the football coaches on the current staff stand a chance of continuing after this season.
It was interesting that John Surma, Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees, instead of Steve Garban, Chairman, handled the joint sacking of Paterno and Spanier (yes, I know, Spanier’s was officially a resignation). I suppose Garban, who had been a long-time friend of Paterno, wanted to distance himself from any decisions announced by the BOT. Clearly, on Wednesday, Paterno had few remaining friends on the BOT.
But isn’t the de-Paternoization campaign a bit premature? Paterno hasn’t been charged with anything. In fact, the state attorney general said that he wouldn’t be. The one “charge” against Paterno from an official source came from Pennsylvania state police commissioner Frank Noonan, who said there was a “moral responsibility” which Paterno failed. Since when did the cops start policing our morals? Noonan might have been in accord with what many of us think of Joe’s failure to do more, but he should keep his big mouth shut when acting in an official capacity unless he has something official to say. But, of course, he’s a politician with something to gain by piling on Old Joe — at least so he thinks. Otherwise, Paterno is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, not by a random public official or the court of public opinion.
I do not want the greatest football coach in NCAA Division I history to be expunged from record books, trophies, buildings, statues, halls of fame, etc. Neither do I want his name to be buried under a pile of asterisks with nefarious references. I hope this vindictive wave of “me-tooism” will soon cease. Delany must take the lead in restoring Joe to the position he deserves as a football coach, and let the rest of the world judge him on his morals. Otherwise, the piling on will continue. Who knows how far it will go. How long do you think the Paterno statue outside Beaver Stadium will last in this climate?
Yes, Paterno screwed up, imperiling children who might have been victimized by Sandusky after 2002. And, yes, I believe that firing Paterno and Spanier was necessary, albeit too little, too late as concerned the victims, as a means of damage control and reducing Penn State’s exposure to civil suits. I personally feel that Spanier is more culpable than Paterno. You might have observed that he held himself aloof from the whole affair, and essentially slipped out the back door once he “resigned.” Will we ever hear from him again? I hope not, unless he is willing to tell the whole truth. But for crying out loud (to use a Paterno euphemism), do we have to invalidate a great coach’s entire body of work over 60 years?