Is It Inappropriate For Penn State To Honor Joe Paterno?
For many years, Joe Paterno was the face of Penn State football and, to a larger degree, the face of Penn State. Even today, when you think about Penn State, there’s a good chance that Paterno’s name immediately comes to mind. But back in November 2011, Penn State attempted to sever their relationship with Paterno completely in light of the Jerry Sandusky scandal that changed the Penn State universe forever. Sandusky was accused of sexually abusing many children over the years, and eventually, reports that came out earlier this year suggested that Paterno may have helped Sandusky cover up the crimes that he committed. One report found that Paterno may have known about the sexual abuse allegations made against Sandusky as far back as 1976.
Paterno passed away in 2012, so Penn State hasn’t had to do much to keep their distance from him. Much as we imagine they would like to honor him more than they do now, they have avoided using his name or image to promote the Penn State football program. But it sounds like that’s going to come to an end in about two weeks when Penn State honors Paterno prior to a game against Temple. Paterno coached his first Penn State game back on September 17, 1966, so Penn State plans on acknowledging the 50th anniversary of his head coaching career by doing something special for him.
The problem, of course, is that many people both inside and outside of the Penn State football family do not want to see this take place. To those who know and love Penn State, Paterno’s name is a reminder of the scandal that nearly destroyed the school. And to those not directly affiliated with Penn State, a celebration of Paterno is a slap in the face to Sandusky’s many victims.
It’s not a complete surprise to hear that Penn State is planning something for Paterno. But it does feel like it’s inappropriate to honor him so soon after the Sandusky scandal. And frankly, it may always feel too soon to do it. Paterno’s legacy is forever tarnished, and as great as he was as a football coach, there’s no honor in what he allegedly did during his time with the Penn State team.