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Jerry Sandusky scandal: Is Joe Paterno's reputation tarnished?

November 7, 2011 |  7:48 am

Jerry Sandusky, a former defensive coordinator at Penn State, has been charged with sexually abusing eight boys over a 15-year period. Two school officials have stepped down as they face charges of covering up the allegations. All three men have asserted their innocence.

Coach Joe Paterno, who has more wins than any other NCAA Division I coach with 409, is not considered a suspect. He released a statement Sunday saying he was shocked and saddened by the accusations against Sandusky, who retired from Penn State in 1999 but continued to use the school's facilities.

Paterno said in grand jury testimony that he reported a shower-room incident involving Sandusky in 2002 to Athletic Director Tim Curley when it was brought to his attention by a witness. Paterno added that no other allegations had been reported to him.

Still, the scandal may change the image of what has always been considered to be a clean program run by Paterno, who has led the team to a pair of national championships and five undefeated seasons since becoming head coach in 1966.

Writers from around Tribune Co. will discuss the Sandusky situation and whether or not it taints the reputation of the Nittany Lions' legendary coach. Please check back throughout the day for their responses.

And feel free to join the discussion by voting in the poll and leaving a comment of your own.

[Updated at 9:48 a.m.:

Teddy Greenstein, Chicago Tribune

In a word, yes. Read the 23-page grand jury findings and you will be horrified and sickened. And then angry.

The target of our anger, assuming the allegations are true, is Sandusky. Next we get to Curley and ask: Is it true he failed to contact law enforcement regarding the incident between Sandusky and a minor in a Penn State locker-room shower?

As for Paterno, who always has seemed like the grandfather we wish we had, did he make every reasonable attempt to protect the minors circling around Sandusky? Or were his motives to protect a longtime friend and the reputation of his football program?

Paterno needs to level with the public. To save his reputation, he'll need to explain why he appeared to choose ignorance over vigilance.

Jeff Schuler, Allentown Morning Call

What exactly is the lasting image of Ohio State’s Woody Hayes? Is it the 205 victories and 13 Big Ten championships in 28 years? Or is the right uppercut he delivered to Clemson's Charlie Bauman in the 1978 Gator Bowl that led to Hayes’ dismissal the following day?

Even though Paterno isn't directly involved with the shocking revelations that came out of Unhappy Valley last weekend, and even though Sandusky hasn't been part of the football program since 1999, there's no doubt this will ultimately tarnish Paterno’s lasting legacy. This, not 400-plus wins, graduation rates or undefeated teams, will become his lasting image.

Prosecutors emphasize that Paterno did what he was legally bound to do and praised his cooperation.

But while Paterno may have met the legal obligations, he will forever be dogged by questions of whether he had a moral obligation to do more nine years ago. And that's where the legacy and the reputation will suffer.]

Bill Dwyre, Los Angeles Times

    Harry Truman said a lot of quotable things, other than: "The Buck Stops here," and "If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." Another attributed to him is  a statement that might apply to the situation Joe Paterno finds himself in at the moment.

  Truman reportedly said, "If you stick around long enough, you will eventually lose."

  The details and specifics of the Penn State assistant coach sexual abuse case will keep pouring out for some time. It may be that Paterno told the right people, did the right thing, acted in an acceptable way with the knowledge he had.

  It may be that the good will he has built over all these years as the grandfather of college athletics will save him the horror of a tainted departure.

   But it seems more likely that, merely by association with all this, Paterno’s age, years of service, perceived benevolence and the desire of so many to have his storied tenure end in a  positive way, will not quite be enough.

  A huge thing in life is to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em. Somewhere along the line, Joe Pa missed that memo.


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Alabama falls only one spot in BCS after loss to LSU

Photo: Jerry Sandusky, left, and Joe Paterno in 1999. Credit: Paul Vathis / Associated Press