Joe Paterno: From the “Great Experiment” to the Great Embarrassment

  • SumoMe

Photo credit: The Washington Post

Since last November when the Jerry Sandusky pedophile scandal broke, my radio show was a lightning rod because off my criticism of Penn State’s leadership, including Joe Paterno, in the days after the scandal erupted.

Years ago I had the opportunity to interview Joe Paterno. In terms of my talk radio career, it was quite a “get.” As I talked to him, as a Pennsylvanian, I felt a bit of pride for a coach who talked about not just playing football “the right way,” but setting high standards for his players.

I bought into his “Great Experiment” vision. But over the years I became more and more disillusioned as the football team’s roster began to contain more and more players with questionable values. The student athlete model gave way to a criminal line-up.

Paterno’s player roster began more and more to resemble a police blotter. His decision to recruit and retain more and more morally marginal players told me and the rest of the world that his “Great Experiment” was giving way to the “Great Embarrassment.”

When Sandusky was arrested, I told my radio listeners there was no way a scandal of this proportion could have occurred without Joe Paterno and Penn State administration not knowing about this. The Paterno apologists blasted me on the air for daring to accuse Saint Paterno of anything but the purest and noblest intentions.

When Paterno tried to buy some time and tell the Board of Trustees (and the court of public opinion) that he would retire at the end of the season, I was criticized for saying this was a pathetic attempt to protect his image and downplay the devastating charges being leveled at Sandusky.

The events that transpired after the scandal broke were inexplicable.

  • Insisting that playing that home game right after the scandal erupted was the right thing to do and would serve as the first step in the “healing process.”
  • The Joe Pa defenders spending all their energy talking about the terrible treatment Paterno received by being fired by the Board of Trustees. Yet I never heard any of them talking about the young children who were raped by Sandusky.
  • The death threats the Board of Trustees members received from gutless Paterno supporters to threaten them from attending Paterno’s memorial.

It’s funny, but the rhetoric and blind devotion of the Paterno supporters has been muted dramatically since the Sandusky trial revealed the sickening details of the crimes he committed against innocent children and the refusal of Paterno, Spanier, Curley and Schultz to take action to stop the abuse.

The Freeh Report has completed destroyed the false wall of lies Paterno, Spanier, Curley and Schultz built to deny their awareness of Sundusky’s unspeakable crimes against his child victims. Further, we are finding out that just after Paterno was giving dishonest testimony to the Grand Jury investigating Sandusky, he was negotiating a multi-million dollar retirement package.

Paid for with our tax dollars. Coincidence?

In football, the “trick play” is used to deceive a team’s opponent. As a coach, Joe Paterno was often criticized for not using more trick plays at Penn State. He eschewed the temptation and insisted on playing traditional, no-nonsense football.

Joe Paterno pulled off the ultimate trick play on the public. Because of his dishonesty and desire to put his football program, reputation and legacy first, innocent children were sexually abused and their lives forever damaged.

Joe Paterno’s legacy has gone from “The Great Experiment” to the “Great Embarassment.”

What do you think?

12 Responses to Joe Paterno: From the “Great Experiment” to the Great Embarrassment

  1. Dr. Collins July 15, 2012 at 3:54 pm #


    You are right on point as always!


    • John Ominski July 15, 2012 at 11:58 pm #

      I agree with everything you said.

      But, the attorney general of PA, Tom Corbett spent over 2 years investigationt this.

      And the results of that investigation?????

      And, the Governor of PA, Ed Rendell, a PSU Board of Trustee, with his attorney general doing this investigation, claims he knew absolutely nothing about all of this.

      So, the AG doing the investigation, and his Governor Rendell knowing nothing about any of this, and AG Corbett becomes the Governor of PA!!!!!!

      Anyone curious about Corbett and Rendell’s failure to perform?????

  2. Greg Voci July 15, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    Rick Reilly had similar thoughts and experiences on

  3. Bob Grimes July 15, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    I agree, Dom, it is a great shame that a man had to go out on this sad and pitiful note. I don’t know if “erasing” him from history is the way to go, maybe use him as a sad example of a great man brought down by his own hubris. I feel sorry for the young men that he could have saved from that creep, Sandusky, but now Joe has to answer to a higher authority for his mistakes.

  4. Dom July 15, 2012 at 4:24 pm #

    The fact that the PSU Trustees feel it is their decision on the statue confirms how out of touch they are. It is a statue university funded by our tax dollars. Personally, I think the victims and their families should decide. And if they want to be behind the wheel of the bulldozer or the wrecking ball that tears the statue down, that should be their right. Since the Trustees were clearly disengaged in this criminal scandal, they have little credibility to make any decisions in its aftermath.

    • Bill July 15, 2012 at 6:43 pm #

      In ways it is similar to the church scandal It was the arrogance of the leaders. somehow they were above everything. Reputation? Well to both organizations what they did to protect it has damaged it more than they ever imagined. What comes to mind now when you mention Penn State? What comes to mind when the Catholic church is mentioned? That is the reality of the situation. the sad part is both chose to ignore the reality of young people being abused. Now reality is hitting both square in the face.

  5. Marjorie July 15, 2012 at 8:54 pm #

    I realize that Paterno followed the policy and procedure of Penn State as far as telling his superior; but when they didn’t do anything about it why, oh why, didn’t he have the decency to follow up and see if this was being halted. As far as College football, yes it is a money making proposition for the colleges but perhaps too much in that vein. I didn’t realize what type of players he was recruiting and that is sad. Is Penn State one of more that may crop up with type of thing? I hope not.

  6. guido July 16, 2012 at 12:52 am #

    JOE HAS THROWN OUT SIXTY YEARS OF FOOTBALL AND NOW DESERVES TO HAVE THE STATUE MELTED DOWN AND SOLD FOR SCRAP USE THE MONEY FOR CHILD PROTECTION SERVICES. I think he knew in the end, that’s why he transfered all assets to his wife out of his name. Shame on him.

  7. Rich Davis July 22, 2012 at 6:00 pm #

    Take the statue down. Leaving it up will only serve as a reminder of how Joe Paterna allowed a known pedophile, a child rapist, to have an office and access to all of the football facilities and prestige to lure young boys into his web to rape.

    Paterno no longer deserves the honor of the statue. His honor is forever stained.

    Tourists are taking pictures of the statue to show to friends, not because Joe Paterno is a great man, but because Joe Paterno allowed a pedophile and his football program to be ahead of children’s safety.

    The statue reminds everyone of the disgrace that Joe Paterno brought onto himself.

    This should be a no-brainer for the Penn State President. If he has to agonize over the decision and wring his hands, then he is not going to be a good college president, I would not want my kid attending a college where the president can’t do the right thing in a swift manner.

  8. nathan July 25, 2012 at 12:25 am #

    You are acting like Joe Paterno sexualy assaulted those children. He didnt do anything to them but unfortunately he made 1 mistake by not telling the police about Jerry Sandusky’s actions. But why didn’t Mike McQueary tell the police what happened. He isnt getting blasted for telling his boss so why should Joe Pa be. I agree Paterno should have told the police but Joe Paterno was a great leader for his football players. Players have said he turned them into men. Also Joe Paterno student athletes have had a the best graduation percentage out of other Division 1 football programs. People have forgotten about all the good he did and i just think it is too bad. Your all acting like his 45 years of coaching was not good for college athletics or good for the players he coached.

  9. Bill July 25, 2012 at 4:10 pm #

    I agree Paterno should have told the police

    But he did not. Why? I understand all the good things he did etc etc. Protecting Penn State football by looking the other way if an alumnus pays a couple of players under the table or some violation of recruiting but looking the other way on this is totally different.

  10. CHARLES DILUZIO August 3, 2012 at 10:29 pm #

    The SIxty Million dollars that Penn State was ordered to pay services and support for victims of child abuse was, imo, the only justified outcome of this moral and administrative train wreck in
    State College. Joe Paterno made a grave mistake- a serious one but that should not wipe out all
    the good and positive impact that this mentor had on thousands of students and athletes. My personal opinion on all this is Joe Pa had many enemies that were trying to force him out for years, this sad situation gave them all the ammunition needed to disgrace the man and his legacy forever. There were many more people involved in these terrible crimes, Sandusky will spend the rest of his life in jail thinking about his actions on the young people he violated and the
    reputation of his so called “friend” that is tarnished for all time because of his actions. Many law
    officers, politicians and trustees looked the other way- but Paterno has borne the brunt of this
    scandal and he is no longer around to speak for himself.

    I feel it’s a disgrace that this happened, Sandusky is a predator that will be punished for the rest of his life. I feel for the victims of these crimes and pray that they will heal emotionally and physically. I feel for Paterno and his family, the pile on done by the current leaders of Penn State
    and the NCAA to tear the man’s name down in the name of justice is beyond comprehension.I feel for the current football staff,coaches, players and students who are also bearing the responsibility for these crimes on and off the football field for many years to come.

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