Count me among the many who had mixed feelings about Joe Paterno after he died from complications of lung cancer earlier this week. There was Paterno the football coach, Paterno to the educator and Paterno the man who turned a blind eye in the sex-abuse scandal that rocked Penn State.
Paterno was considered an icon in State College and beyond for more than 60 years for both his success in athletics and commitment to academics. Attitudes toward him changed when authorties said Paterno failed to notify police after hearing accusations that former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky had molested boys.
It was one of the biggest scandals to rock college sports and left people conflicted by their opinions of Paterno, a tortured soul when he died at age 85. Why didn't he do more to help children? We'll never know for sure. He will forever be remembered as a terrific coach, but sadly the link between him and Sandusky will forever hang in the backdrop.
Here's the link to Buffalo News Editor Margaret Sullivan's blog http://blogs.buffalonews.com/sulliview/2012/01/for-a-few-shameful-hours-news-of-paternos-death-was-greatly-exaggerated.html
Here are some reactions to my column earlier in the week from readers, cut and pasted from my email:
-- "MANY PEOPLE FEEL JOE PATERNO COACHED TOO LONG, ME INCLUDED. CAN’T HELP BUT THINK A YOUNGER JOE PATERNO WOULD HAVE HANDLED THE SANDUSKY ORDEAL DIFFERENTLY"
-- "When I think of Coach Paterno I think of people like my father when he coached, old school, honest, there for the kids more than the wins. I believe that Joe's program got away from him, probably years ago. I can not imagine a person in their 80's coach little league let alone big time! I just wish that Penn State would have retired him in such a way that would have given him dignity. He was not going to do it on his own. They should have looked after this man the way he looked after kids. Like you said, it is all very sad."
-- "Sex between consenting adults is usually recognized as none of our business. College students are adults and not children. College staff members are ethically not to engage in sex with students and their are employment rules covering this. What I read to believe what happened was not a criminal act but an unethical act that the University Officials mishandled but not Joe Paterno who reported it to them.
"Coaching a football team could result in disastrous grade results from a staff member who was sympathetic to Sandusky. This is one of the political minefields coaching has to navigate that are not publicly recognized. Losing star players could easily destroy a team and the University's alumni support.
"Anyway the media really misreported this as child abuse when the participant said nothing was wrong."
-- "It's a tough subject to discuss - the dichotomy between who Paterno was and what he wasn't, all at once. For me, it's all incredibly gray, which you expressed very well. For most not connected to Penn State I think it's usually more black and white."
--- Bucky Gleason