By: Lauren Saccone
Jerry Sandusky’s trial may be over, but the fallout from the scandal that devastated Penn State University and shocked a nation lives on. Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant football coach, was found guilty of over 45 counts of sexual abuse against young boys. But Sandusky’s legacy is not the only one destroyed by this scandal.
Joe Paterno, the late, great football coach that led Penn State to victory and helped put the college and the team on the map, didn’t live to see the conclusion of Sandusky’s trial. He passed away in January from complications due to lung cancer. But in just 24 hours, any record of what could be considered Paterno’s legacy has pretty much been erased due to his role in the scandal.
First, on Sunday Penn State removed the famed Joe Paterno’s statue from its grounds. The statue, which has stood for nearly a decade, had become the subject of mounting controversy from the public following the publication of an internal investigative report by former FBI director Louis Freech which found that Paterno’s claims of total ignorance of Sandusky’s actions were untrue and that head coach was complicit in concealing his former assistant coach’s behavior.
“I now believe that, contrary to its original intention, Coach Paterno’s statue has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing in our University and beyond,” explained Penn State President Rodney Erickson to the public. “For that reason, I have decided that it is the best interest of our university and public safety to remove the statue and store it in a secure location. I believe that, were it to remain, the statue will be a recurring would to the multitude of individuals across the nation and beyond who have been victims of child abuse.”
Some members of the Penn State community remain loyal to Paterno and are voicing their objection to the statue’s removal. They are quick to remind people that Sandusky, not Paterno, is the perpetrator of those horrible crimes and praise Paterno’s more than seven decades as a football coach and leader.
Meanwhile, on Monday the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) announced that they would be levying penalties against Penn State for their handling of the sex scandal. The college will be fined $60 million, with the money going to programs to help victims of sexual abuse. The school’s football team is also banned from any postseason appearances for the next four years. But the most telling penalty is the official vacating of all Penn State wins received from 1998 to 2011. This effectively rewrites the official history of American collegiate football and will be reflected in Paterno’s record. Paterno will no longer be the “winningest coach” in the sport's history, dropping down to 12th in the record of coaches with the most wins.
All this debate – over whether the statue should have been taken down, and now over whether the NCAA was too harsh – undermines what the victims have endured and the devastation Sandusky caused by his actions. They - and nobody else in this story - are the ones who have truly suffered.
[Pic via Flickr - Audrey]