Joe Paterno: Should NCAA and selected schools honor his memory?
Writers from around Tribune Co. discuss whether the NCAA and selected member schools (outside of Penn State) should honor the memory of Joe Paterno. You can join the discussion with a comment of your own.
Chris Dufresne, Los Angeles Times
I was savaged by many in November when I suggested that Penn State should decline a bowl bid in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Turns out I may have been right as the lead-up to the TicketCity Bowl included a locker room fight involving the starting quarterback and a lackluster defeat in front of a bunch of empty seats. Cherish THOSE memories?
But this is even trickier. Penn State is going to have a tough enough time honoring Paterno given the rift his firing caused in the family. The NCAA and others should stay out of the moment-of-silence business. It's just too sensitive. We still don't know all the facts in this horrible story. Let Penn State handle this one in-house.
The Big Ten has already spoken by taking Paterno's name off its championship trophy. Individual coaches and players have every right to express their personal feelings toward Paterno, and many of them have. There is no need for institutions to declare any unifying response given that it would be impossible for those views to satisfy or reflect everyone's feelings. This story is still too toxic. Give it time. Let Paterno rest in peace and let's leave it, for now, at that.
Maybe we should ask Jerry Sandusky's alleged victims this question.
What exactly is your memory of Joe Paterno?
Sadly, only a few weeks after his firing for failing to tell police about a child sex-abuse allegation involving Sandusky, most Americans do not have a memory of Paterno that deserves to be honored.
Yes, he coached Penn State for nearly half a century and won 409 games, more than any other head coach in major-college history. Yes, he donated millions of dollars of his salary back to Penn State. But Paterno will likely be remembered more for one monumental failure than he will for all of those magnificent successes. He will be remembered for overseeing perhaps the biggest scandal in college football history more than he will for all of his goodwill and great victories.
It's up to Penn State and its fans to remember and to honor Paterno the way they see fit. The NCAA and other institutions of higher learning should stay out of it.
Mark Wogenrich, Allentown Morning Call
To honor Joe Paterno is not to endorse child molestation. To me, that seems obvious. Others may disagree.
Poring through pages and pages of statements issued after the former Penn State coach's death, I couldn’t find one from the NCAA. Big Ten, check. American Football Coaches Assn., check. National Football Foundation, check. Coaches, players, politicians, check, check, check.
Nothing from Mark Emmert and the NCAA, though. That seems a curious omission from a body mandated to serve and protect college athletics, something in which Paterno believed strongly.
The Big Ten has a chance to rethink its hasty decision to remove Paterno's name from its championship trophy, or at least find another way to recognize the late coach. Meanwhile, the NCAA at least could say something. After all, the inspiration for most statues is human.
Brian Hamilton, Chicago Tribune
Everyone is entitled to their interpretation of the acute mistake Joe Paterno made in the twilight decades of his life, when confronted with the horror of longtime aide Jerry Sandusky's alleged sexual abuse. So the NCAA and its member schools are entitled to recognize the Penn State coach in whatever way they wish.
And it's probably best they do. Not because Paterno represented a soaring ideal, though it's impossible to dismiss his mission and his many non-athletic contributions. No, you recognize him precisely because of his mistake. Because invoking his name will recall the best of college athletics while reminding us to be vigilant and strong in the times our character is tested.
Joe Paterno proved fallible, not criminal. That is a worthy enough lesson in itself.
Photo: Joe Paterno. Credit: John Zeedick / Associated Press