Sunday morning, former Head Coach Joe Paterno passed away. He was diagnosed with lung cancer shortly after being fired from Penn State on November 9. For his final hours, “he fought hard until the end, stayed positive, thought only of others and constantly reminded everyone of how blessed his life had been,” according to his family’s statement.
It seems Paterno’s passing has created a common alliance among the Penn State community, otherwise divided due to the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal. All wish to honor his legacy: Governor Tom Corbett requested that flags be lowered to half-mast and Penn State officials stated they are consulting with the community to plan a gathering to honor Paterno.
Although he has not been legally charged, the university dismissed Paterno for not reporting Sandusky’s alleged sexual act with a boy in the showers from 2002 to the police. On January 14, the Washington Post reported JoePa commenting, “I didn’t know exactly how to handle it and I was afraid to do something that might jeopardize what the university procedure was. So I backed away and turned it over to some other people, people I thought would have a little more expertise than I did. It didn’t work out that way.”
Graham Spanier, Penn State’s former President, was also fired and Athletic Director Tim Curley and Gary Schultz (Vice President in charge of campus police) have been charged with failing to notify law enforcement about the sexual abuse allegation. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Former Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky is now charged with 52 counts of sexual abuse involving 10 boys over 15 years; the number of counts has increased since the scandal was first exposed. The latest on Sandusky’s legal & court system proceedings is that he waved his preliminary hearing on December 13, 2011. He is expected to be in court for a pre-trial meeting on March 22.
Sandusky himself commented on Sunday after Paterno died: “He maintained a high standard in a very difficult profession … Nobody will be able to take away the memories we all shared of a great man, his family, and all the wonderful people who were a part of his life.”
It appears that whether or not Joe Paterno did something wrong back in 2002, it appears that overall, he will be remembered in the most positive way: a coach for the Nittany Lions since 1950 (Head Coach since 1966), an inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame, the record-breaking winningest coach with 409 victories in 2011, a major financial donor to Penn State and a promoter of athletic and academic success to all his athletes.