JoePa: Worth Remembering?

Nick Wetzel, Sports Editor

This past Saturday, September 17, Penn State celebrated the 1966 football team and, more specifically, its head coach. It was the coach’s first year with the team. The head coach, Joe Paterno, was affectionately known by Penn State football fans as “JoePa.” If this were any other coach or any other team, this would not be a story.

Universities like to commemorate teams of yesteryear all of the time, usually to get fans to purchase memorabilia. But this event, this university, and this head coach were very different.

Joe Paterno is the Division-I leader in career wins, and was the head coach of the Penn State football team for 46 seasons, leading the team to National Championships in both 1982 and 1986, and coached the university to 24 bowl wins. His resumé is definitely worthy of commemoration, but many wonder if he should have been recognized for his achievements due to his failure to spot a monster on his coaching staff and protect the kids that were under his tutelage.

Over a 15-year period, Paterno’s assistant coach Jerry Sandusky sexually abused eight boys who attended Penn State youth football camps. News of the abuses came out right around the same time that Paterno claimed the Division-I wins record. Word also came out about an attack by Sandusky on a boy in a Penn State locker room in 2002 that Joe Paterno knew about and did nothing. Paterno later admitted that “I didn’t know how to handle it,” and claimed that he told others whom he thought had more expertise than he did.

Paterno was let go by the school shortly after the horrifying stories came out and his statue in front of the stadium was taken down. Many fans of the program wish the university would put the statue back up, arguing that what Paterno did for the team and the university deserves recognition. Others realize that football takes a back seat to children’s lives and well-being. So while the videos of the 1966 team played, many Penn State fans cheered, while some Temple fans, the opponent for this particular game, turned their backs in protest, just like the way Paterno turned his back on those kids.

A combination photo shows the Joe Paterno statue outside Beaver Stadium before (L) and after it has been removed (R) in State College, Pennsylvania, July 20, 2012 and July 22, 2012. Penn State leaders acknowledged that the seven-foot (2.1-metre) statue of the late Paterno had become "a source of division" at the school after Jerry Sandusky, Paterno's former assistant coach, was convicted in June of sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years. The statue was removed on July 22. REUTERS/Pat Little (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL EDUCATION CRIME LAW)

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