Why The NCAA Restoring Wins For Penn State And Joe Paterno Doesn’t Mean A Damn Thing

As I’m sure you all know, the NCAA reached an agreement with Penn State University to restore the wins that were vacated for the Penn State football team and the late head coach Joe Paterno. In addition, Penn State will be allowed to spend that $60 million fine in-state on “activities and programs for the prevention of child sexual abuse and the treatment of victims of child sexual abuse.”

As far as the history books are concerned, this turn of events reinstates Paterno as major college football’s all-time winningest coach at 409 victories. That’s wonderful news for the Paterno family and all the zealots out there. It also lends credence to the repeated arguments from both Penn State supporters and Penn State haters that the NCAA far overstepped its bounds and acted impulsively and improperly when handing out punishments it may or may not have even had jurisdiction over. Seeing as all the sanctions minus the fine have officially been overturned, it’s been proved that the NCAA handled things inappropriately.

But in all honesty, for most people, this news doesn’t mean a damn thing.

For the people who view Paterno as an enabler and false prophet, this decision doesn’t erase the crimes of omission the late head coach committed, and it shouldn’t. Joe Paterno did not do enough in the entire scandal, and he even seemed to admit as much before his passing. He should not be let off the hook for allowing a criminal to hang around his program after being given disturbing news, and he most assuredly should have been on top of seeing that the horrible actions that were conveyed to him by Mike McQueary were followed up on. He didn’t, and we shouldn’t forget that.

For the people who view Paterno and Penn State as pristine and the molder of men, a coach just as dedicated to classwork as field work, they believed Paterno was the all-time winningest coach the whole time, NCAA be damned.

As an alumnus who grew up idolizing Paterno — being half Italian and raised Catholic certainly didn’t hurt in that regard — I still view the end of his tenure as tragic and disappointing, while respecting the legacy he had built before the fall. I still think Paterno deserved to be dismissed, and I still believe he should have done more and deserved all the criticism in the world for not. He was the man who built the “Success With Honor” edict, which meant even until the end that he was beholden to live that creed. He didn’t in this situation, which makes him hypocritical at worst and naive at best. Either way, if he was too old to understand the seriousness of the situation, he was most definitely too old to be the head football coach and face of a university.

Yet, I also still believe that deep down, Paterno wanted to do and mostly did good. That doesn’t excuse his behavior at the end, but the end also should not define an entire lifetime. It’s a tricky situation, and truthfully, while I will always admire a lot of what Joe Paterno did and stood for, I lost a lot of respect and admiration for him because of all this, respect and admiration that will never be restored.

Frankly, none of that matters either. What matters is, now, finally, perhaps we as a university can move on. I say we because I am a member of the alumni association, and I love Penn State as much as I love anything else in this world outside of my family and friends. I was raised on Penn State and attended Penn State University Campus for four years, graduated from there. And I was raised on Penn State University, not just Penn State Football. That means I care about the university, and now, I hope the leadership will care about the school as a whole, not just the legacy of its most famous employee.

Truth be told, the board of trustees at my alma mater and the agenda some of its members had to restore Paterno’s wins and his name always bothered me. Who were they doing this for? A deceased man who couldn’t care less? It was not the job of the university to clear Joe Paterno’s name. That cause, if anyone wanted to take it up, was the duty of the Paterno family, not Penn State. Penn State’s board of trustees were and are supposed to look out for the university and for the current and future students. That’s board members’ job, not trying to defend the deceased.

This entire effort always seemed pointless to me. The university should have moved on and now hopefully can move on and look at how it can become the best Penn State it can be for the students it is tasked with educating. Along the way, the fanatics overtook the noise and made an entire university look bad, look like it had its priorities misplaced and its reasoning blinded. As a member of the Penn State family, that infuriated me. We’re not all mindless drones, taking up pitchforks and joining the mob to demand the wins and good name of Joe Paterno restored. Yet it sometimes felt that way, driven often by the board of trustees.

Well, in the end, they got what they wanted. The wins have been restored, and Joe Paterno is once again at the top of the NCAA football mountain. And it doesn’t mean a damn thing.

The wins never mattered. Joe Paterno’s name never mattered. What mattered in all of this is that a terrible thing happened, and while most people all agree it was terrible and more should have been done, the focus was always on football — on wins and scholarships and bowl bans and a deceased head coach’s name.

That’s not what any of this ever should have been about. It should have been about the victims and the crime and the horrible culture of child abuse, both sexual and beyond. It should have been about making sure something like this never happens again, about starting a conversation, about making the world a better and safer place. It should have been about more than a football program and a football coach.

Yes, Joe Paterno is back as the all-time winningest coach, and Penn State gets to bring those wins back. But it doesn’t really mean a damn thing. It never did, and it never will.

Sadly, for some people, that seems to be the only thing that ever mattered. And that just proves we really haven’t learned much at all. The NCAA may have conceded defeat, but when it’s all said and done, no one has truly won.

17 Replies to “Why The NCAA Restoring Wins For Penn State And Joe Paterno Doesn’t Mean A Damn Thing”

  1. It MEANS……..you do not punish players and teams for the sins of 1 man, and that man was NOT Joe.
    You are a dolt and bigot. Hard to deal with…huh?
    So are you.

    1. I agree that you don’t punish players and teams for the sin of one man, no doubt, but it’s not as if the memories were taken away from them. I’ll happily accept being called a dolt, but I’m pretty sure you have no idea what the definition of bigot is. Thanks for reading.

  2. Do you write all your articles equally misinformed? How much have you read and how much do you really know about the school and the sports programs? It is still unclear how much he may have known or not known. In 98, the mother reported it to State College police. The victim would not testify and no charges filed as the DA had no case. Had ANYONE tried to fire SD they would have been brought up on charges of wrongful termination. In 2001, JP took the information he had to the administration. They had a responsibility to investigate it. JP had already given an ultimatum to JS. Coach or focus on the TSM. GS granted access to the building after he left against JP wishes. Anyone with a conscience would have said I wish I had done more. That is the beauty of hindsight. Even if he had followed up, what more could he have done? Gone to the police….with what? He was not the witness. There was no identifiable victim. And there was no evidence. Let’s say for the sake of argument that JP had taken MM straight to the SCPD.

    JP: We want to file a report of abuse. SCPD: What happened? JP: I didn’t witness it, MM did. SCPD to MM: What did you witness. MM: I heard noises (we all know what he described). SCPD: Where did this take place? MM: In the Lasch building shower. SCPD: When did this occur? MM: Two days ago. SCPD: Who is the victim? MM: I don’t know. SCPD: Can you describe him/her? MM: No.

    So the crime scene is compromised. There is no way to ID the victim. Go talk to a cop and ask what would have been done. This is even less to go on than in 98. No charges would have been filed due to lack of evidence.

    Now let’s talk about the Freeh report. The three most important people with information were not required to provide input. This was all voluntary. There were no subpoenas. And if you read the report, the conclusions were not supported by the report.

    You say they must have known and permitted it. Again, he wasn’t working there in 2001 and no charges brought by the DA in 98. Also read up on pedophiles. Many occur within the same house as their spouse and it can go on for years. These people are very good at manipulating their victims. I suppose your implying that all of the spouses that claim they did not know were all complicit in those crimes. I know someone that this happened to and I can tell you that it nearly destroyed the unknowing parent. That parent certainly was no complicit.

    What is more disturbing is that you are willing to write about stuff that is still unknown and will be until after the trials of the administrators. But you clearly have no problem passing judgement over someone without knowing the facts or even bothering to try to learn them. I wonder what your opinion would be if suddenly someone accused you of breaking the law and everyone started convicting you without due process particularly if you were not guilty. You can’t sit there and tell me that would be acceptable. That would make you a hypocrite. What is worse is that just about everyone has witnessed at their work someone committing an ethics violation. Did you report it? I would bet that you didn’t.

        1. Whatever he had to to bring the abuse to an end. Hire A PI to gather admissible evidence, slip him a dose of cyanide, whatever rings the abuse to an end, that’s what he should have done.

    1. I did not accuse Paterno of anything and certainly do not think he did anything legally wrong. I also fully believe he didn’t do enough as the face of a football program and face a university. If you want to compare me to Joe Paterno, by all means, go ahead. I say he didn’t do enough from a moral standpoint and a man who preach success with honor.

      Furthermore, this is exactly why I wrote the post … this shouldn’t be about Paterno or the football program and never should have been. It should have been about the terrible crime that took place and opening discussion and programs around child abuse and sexual predators. Instead, it’s all been about football and Paterno. It should not have been from the start, and it shouldn’t be now. Yet that’s all anyone seems to care about, and at the end of the day, none of this means anything from that standpoint.

      Yes, the NCAA was wrong. Yes, the parties involved were wrong. Yes, it’s great for the players and fans and coach to get recognized and proved that they were wrongfully punished. But it still doesn’t mean a damn thing in regard to the horrible actions committed on campus and the way the university should respond to that issue … not the issue of wins and losses and recognition of a football program.

      1. You did accuse JP of not doing enough, yet you have not defined what “enough” would be. I laid out what he could have done and what the result would have been. The only person that could have done more and didn’t was MM. He could have gone in and grabbed the kid, wrapped him up in a towel, and gone straight the the police. That did not happen. And before you try to take the moral high ground, don’t try to say that is what you would have done. Unless you are in that situation you cannot say what you would have done. I would like to think as a parent I would have, but I cannot say definitively that I would have. Everyone reacts differently to stress. That reaction, if is not the reaction you wanted does not make them a bad person or a failure. It is what it is, a reaction to a stressful situation. What I can say is that I have reported ethics violations at work on two occasions over the years. If you haven’t then you shouldn’t be talking about morals at all.

        I also agree that this should never have been about football. What is more is that all of this is premature. Until the trials of the administrators are over the whole story will not be revealed. That is also what you should have focused on with your article but did not. But until I see evidence that JP could have done something that he didn’t or knew something and failed to act, then he is innocent. JS was tried and convicted. The 60 million will be used in-state to help abused children. That is what the law suit was about. Who knows what the NCAA would have done with it. The only reason the NCAA gave back the wins is that they were hoping the Paternos would drop their lawsuit. That did not happen. The NCAA knows they are doomed if it goes to trial.

        Like I said before, anyone with a conscience would have said what JP said. That doesn’t imply it is a confession.

        1. I don’t disagree with anything here, and I certainly do not pretend to know what I would have done. I’m not condemning Paterno as a man. I do still feel disappointed that he, given his status, wasn’t more on top of following up on the situation. You’re right, I have no idea what I would have done and can’t speak to how Paterno viewed things, but at the end of the day, accusations around children need to be taken seriously and stayed on top of, no matter what. I think that’s the real lesson we should learn here … not that the wins and losses should or should not be validated.

          I just wish the university and the school could move on from this and look forward, not back. Alas, it always comes back to football, and as we both agree, this should have never been about football to begin with. Thank you so much for reading and responding, and for doing it respectfully, even with the differing views.

  3. Im also a PSU alum and a huge follower of a the football program. This article is as close to spot on as anything I have read.

  4. YOU ARE AN IDIOT , Yes what a tragic situation it was ,but it was not Paterno it was Sandusky who was many years removed from PSU coaching Listen to the people closest to him,former players ,coaches , etc. Not a bunch of politicians who could never tell the truth .Funny how when 99% of America condemned the man without due process everything was in bold face print & now the retractions are just a little bit smaller . Believe me ,this world would be a hell of a lot better if we had more accountable men like Joe Paterno.

    1. While I may be an idiot, I actually agree with everything here. It should have all been about Sandusky and the wrongdoings from the start, and the issue of child abuse and pedophelia. Instead it’s all about football instead of that. That’s the entire point here.

  5. I went to PSU from 2002-2006. I can honestly say that I thought I’d be more excited then I was when the wins were restored. Frankly, I could care less. I have the memories. I was at the games. Just because there was a zero in the record books for 2005 didn’t give matter because I saw Michael Robinson run over that safety from Minnesota and Tamba Hali knock that Troy smith on his head. So in that respect, I don’t care if the wins are in the record book or not. Also, I feel the same way about joe. I think he could have done more. All he had to do was tell his assistant coach to call the police. He didn’t have to call the police but he could have said, “mike if that’s what you think you saw, call the cops”. If you ask me, I think mike mcqueary should have done more but as a mentor and leader Joe gave bad advice and did not do enough. I still respect and like Joe, but not as much as I used too. I wish I felt the same about him but I just can’t.

  6. How come USC, Alabama, FSU, and Ohio State doesn’t get there get their victories back i.e. Reggie Bush $, Bama 3 players selling vouchers, OSU tattoos , FSU 3 players cheating on a test, and yet Penn State for covering up for a child rapist? Disclaimer: No intention of belittling the victims.

  7. It puts one situation back the way it should be. Of course it has nothing to do with the child victims. However, it is certainly possible to have multiple wrongs stemming from such incidents. The fact that there are child victims doesn’t excuse the Freeh Report, which is a railroad job based on mostly speculation and innuendo, or the NCAA penalties, which is another railroad job since it relied entirely on the Freeh Report and also was an abuse of authority in its own right.

    Moral finger pointing is always suspect, IMO. Paterno may not have done as much as he could have done. But he actually had no responsibility for the situation presented to him, and he could just as well have done nothing except tell McQueary to take care of it himself. McQueary is not the most reliable of witnesses anyway considering how many time his story has changed and that neither his father nor a doctor friend of his father could get any allegations of seeing any sexual activity out of him before they sent him to Paterno. Had Paterno pursued the issue, there is no guarantee that any different outcome would have occurred. Once the investigation goes to the police and/or child welfare authorities, Paterno would have been out of the loop entirely since he had not seen anything himself. Then it would require that Sandusky and/or the child (if the child could, in fact, be identified) admit to wrongdoing or allege wrongdoing. From what we now know about the child, it appears almost certain that he would have backed Sandusky in claiming that nothing had really happened–after all, he did tell both prosecution and defense investigators that very thing before getting legal counsel and changing his stance after many more victims surfaced. He wasn’t called to testify during the trial for good reason. and Sandusky was acquitted of that charge. And it’s not like Paterno turned a blind eye–he did, at least, report it. From what I have gathered from various sources, that is what he thought the rules called for. That 20/20 hindsight gets everyone sooner or later. But it’s no help at earlier stages. Considering what Paterno’s track record was with his players, I’ll bet that his final regret that he wished he’d done more was the understatement of the century. It surely was, as he put it, the greatest sorrow of his life.

    I certainly agree that the worst thing about all this is that a child abuse issue got turned into a football issue. But that was almost certain to happen once Freeh went after a beloved figure with virtually no evidence to support his horrendous allegations and when the NCAA imposed penalties that many at Penn State considered unjustified–and rightly so. That not only tore the campus apart, it made sure that a bunker mentality got started. And once that sort of genie is out of the bottle, it can’t be put back in. That, IMO, is the worst outcome possible and I lay blame for that on Freeh and on the NCAA. The media is also complicit since it swallowed the Freeh Report hook, line, and sinker. About the only media person who has publicly changed his stance on this is Bob Costas who no longer thinks that Paterno was complicit as Freeh charged.

    I don’t have any affiliations with Penn State or any particular love for Joe Paterno. But railroad jobs are not the way things are supposed to be done in this country.

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