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BILL PLASCHKE

Forget sympathy, what Joe Paterno deserves is to be fired immediately

The Penn State coach announced Wednesday he would retire at the end of the season, but his inaction in the child sex-abuse case involving an assistant demands that he be replaced now.

November 09, 2011|Bill Plaschke
  • Students show their support for beleaguered Penn State Coach Joe Paterno as he arrives home to a pep-rally type atmosphere Tuesday night.
Students show their support for beleaguered Penn State Coach Joe Paterno… (Matt Rourke / Associated…)

There were hordes of Penn State students gathered outside beleaguered Joe Paterno's home, standing up for his welfare, cheering for him to stay strong.

If only Paterno had shown this same compassionate concern for a 10-year-old boy who was allegedly sexually assaulted in his football team's showers.

There were scads of Penn State students marching on the school's administration building, outraged at the assault on Paterno's integrity, chanting for justice.

If only Paterno had used this same indignant voice to stop an alleged child molester from wandering free on his campus.

Joe Paterno announced Wednesday he was retiring at the end of the season after 46 years as the Nittany Lions football coach, and I'm hearing all this talk about sadness for his legacy and remorse for his farewell, and it makes me want to do what Paterno should have done nine years ago when he was told an innocent boy was being violated.

It makes me want to scream.

This is not about Joe Paterno. This is about the eight boys allegedly molested during a 15-year period by longtime assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

This is not about the legacy of an 84-year-old football coach. This is about the legacy of violated preteen children, including one whose alleged rape in a football locker room was witnessed by a graduate assistant who informed Paterno of the incident.

As the stunned sports world knows by now, Paterno simply relayed the information to his "official" supervisor, Athletic Director Tim Curley, and then let the matter drop. That was nine years ago. The retired Sandusky kept his athletic department office and has been charged with molesting boys for seven more years.

This is not about the sad end of a legend with a major-college-record 409 victories. This is about the frightening number of assaults that allegedly occurred during the nine years of Paterno's silence.

Save your pleas for the future of those children whose pleas were never heard. Save your tears for those who need them.

Joe Paterno deserved nothing more than a gentle kick off the campus where his statue is in front of the stadium and his name is on the library ... because his shadow hovers over possibly the worst scandal in college sports history.

Paterno doesn't even deserve to be allowed to retire at the end of the season. He should be gone now. If the Penn State Board of Trustees wants to show the world there is actually someone in State College who is not frightened of the power of the football coach, they will fire him before he steps on to the field Saturday for Penn State's game against Nebraska.

I think Paterno knows this. I think that's actually why he suddenly announced he was retiring at the end of the season on Wednesday morning, before trustees were scheduled to meet on the matter.

With two top Penn State officials already booted off campus because of the scandal, and with Penn State President Graham Spanier's job also in jeopardy, Paterno was trying to elicit enough sympathy from the trustees to allow him to finish his career with some semblance of honor.

Too late for that. The honor departed the moment Paterno decided to risk children's safety to maintain that honor. The tactic shouldn't work. The retirement should not be accepted. He should be fired immediately.

Even after nine years, Paterno was reluctant to take responsibility for his actions, waiting until the scandal was four days old before finally admitting the obvious.

When Sandusky was charged last weekend, Paterno's initial comments implied he knew nothing.

"If this is true, we were all fooled," he said at the time.

But a couple of days and 100 degrees of heat later, his tune changed.

"I should have done more," he said in his retirement statement issued Wednesday morning.

But he didn't, and children were allegedly assaulted in locker rooms, and at Penn State bowl games, by a man whose association with the university could have ended with one phone call by its most powerful figure.

Joe Paterno obviously didn't feel sorry for helpless children then.

Why are we feeling sorry for him now?

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

twitter.com/billplaschke

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