USA TODAY US Edition

Penn State still doesn’t get it

Hon­or­ing Paterno lat­est in line of post-San­dusky PR blun­ders

- Chris­tine Bren­nan cbren­nan@usatoday.com USA TO­DAY Sports

This Satur­day, in what is be­lieved to be a first in col­lege foot­ball his­tory, a univer­sity will hold a game-day cer­e­mony to honor the en­abler of a child rapist.

Penn State, what in the world are you do­ing?

At some point be­fore, dur­ing or af­ter its game with Tem­ple, the univer­sity plans to pub­licly com- mem­o­rate the late Joe Paterno for the first time since he was fired in Novem­ber 2011 in the midst of the Jerry San­dusky child sex abuse scan­dal.

De­tails about what ex­actly Penn State plans to do to honor Paterno on the 50th an­niver­sary of his first game as head coach are be­ing kept un­der wraps by ath­let­ics de­part­ment of­fi­cials un­til Thurs­day, univer­sity spokesman Jeff Nel­son said in an email Wed­nes­day.

If the peo­ple who run Penn State could step out­side their lives for just a mo­ment, if they

could see how the San­dusky scan­dal and Paterno’s clear in­volve­ment in not stop­ping it still hor­rify so many of us around the coun­try, if they had any sense of de­cency to­ward the nu­mer­ous vic­tims of San­dusky’s crimes, they would an­nounce Thurs­day that they are can­cel­ing the Paterno cer­e­mony.

They would say that they fi­nally get it, that they un­der­stand how dread­ful their my­opia about this is­sue has been, that it’s time to move on, that it’s painful and pa­thetic to al­low old wounds to resur­face. And they would say that they are sorry.

Let­ting go of this re­pug­nant and ap­palling chap­ter in the his­tory of a proud and re­spected univer­sity should be the eas­i­est de­ci­sion Penn State of­fi­cials have ever made. Yet, for some in­ex­pli- cable rea­son, those of­fi­cials don’t have it in them to stop bring­ing up Paterno, which brings up San­dusky, which brings up all those young boys and what San­dusky did to them while he was coach­ing de­fense at Penn State.

For nearly five years, school of­fi­cials have con­sis­tently made the worst public re­la­tions de­ci­sions about the scan­dal and its af­ter­math, en­sur­ing that in­stead of mak­ing it go away, they’ve kept it front and cen­ter in our na­tional con­scious­ness.

I’ve been hop­ing for sev­eral years that of­fi­cials from the Big Ten Con­fer­ence might swoop in and help Penn State fig­ure out how to do the right thing. In 2013, af­ter Wis­con­sin track leg­end and three-time Olympian Suzy Fa­vor Hamil­ton ad­mit­ted she had worked as a pros­ti­tute, the Big Ten took her name off its fe­male ath­lete of the year award.

If it could do that, why not step in, even be­hind the scenes, and de­mand Penn State stop wor­ship­ing some­one in­volved in some­thing that was so much worse? In fact, the league did re­move Paterno’s name from its foot­ball cham- pi­o­nship tro­phy in Novem­ber 2011.

The so-called adults ob­vi­ously are fail­ing here. But there is a group at Penn State that gets it.

A col­lege news­pa­per usu­ally pro­vides a fairly ac­cu­rate por­trait of the mood of a stu­dent body. On Sept. 2, the day af­ter Penn State an­nounced the Paterno cer­e­mony, the school’s pa­per, The Daily

Col­le­gian, wrote this in an editorial: “Penn State needs a re­al­ity check. This is not 2011. We need to move on.” There was more. “Paterno has not been a mem­ber of this univer­sity’s staff since 2011. He is no longer a com­mu­nity hero. Paterno was a re­mark­able part of this univer­sity for nu­mer­ous years, and for that we have the right to be thank­ful. … But in light of these past years — even these past few weeks — this is in no way the right time or man­ner to ‘com­mem­o­rate’ him, if he even de­serves to be so.” And this: “Cur­rently, the only as­so­ci­a­tions these (cur­rent) classes of stu­dents have with Paterno is read­ing and hear­ing his name tied with Jerry San­dusky’s and law­suits or com­ing from the mouths of Penn State alumni who can’t ac­cept that their time here is no longer.

“This is our Penn State. It is a Penn State with­out Joe Paterno. It is a Penn State that is still try­ing to re­build, make amends and pro­pel for­ward.”

So who ex­actly are the ma­ture adults at Penn State? And who are the ones who still need to learn?

 ?? PAUL VATHIS, AP ?? Con­victed child sex abuser Jerry San­dusky, left, was an as­sis­tant un­der Joe Paterno at Penn State for more than 30 years.
PAUL VATHIS, AP Con­victed child sex abuser Jerry San­dusky, left, was an as­sis­tant un­der Joe Paterno at Penn State for more than 30 years.
 ??  ??
 ?? 2009 PHOTO BY CAR­OLYN KASTER, AP ?? Penn State plans to com­mem­o­rate Satur­day the 50th an­niver­sary of Joe Paterno’s first game as foot­ball coach.
2009 PHOTO BY CAR­OLYN KASTER, AP Penn State plans to com­mem­o­rate Satur­day the 50th an­niver­sary of Joe Paterno’s first game as foot­ball coach.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA