Joe Paterno Penn State Letter – NCAA FootballMonday, July 23, 2012 20:56
Letter from Joe Paterno.
Note: Last evening we received this message in our e-mail box. Sent by a member of Joe Paterno’s family who requests anonymity, the message refutes much of the “letter” released, allegedly, by former players ten days ago. It begins with a two paragraph preface from that family member…
The previous letter released to the public and advertised as authored by Joseph V. Paterno was a product of savvy publicists, protective family members and frightened fellow travelers in Penn State’s recent, painful journey to perdition.
Coach Paterno gave the following–a letter written in his own hand–to a trusted family member, in the event his family did not publish his intended words. I forward it to you, unedited…
Dear, Students, Alumnus, Fans, and Those Who Hate Penn State,
First, I am so sorry for the pain and suffering of the young boys I allowed Jerry Sandusky to sexually abuse. The signs were there, the whispers, stories, and rumors. I ignored them. Like the persistent cough I ignored for so long that foreshadowed my lung-cancer, I could never fathom the horrific truth.
Secondly, specifically, I feel compelled to say: this is, at its very core, a football scandal. Without major college football and the pressures that drive its coaches, administrators, and student athletes, this tragedy, the soul-searing damage done to once innocent children never would have–I cannot imagine it even could have–happened.
If I were the world’s greatest plumber and knew one of my colleagues had done what Jerry Sandusky did, I would have beat him to death with a monkey wrench–with conviction and pride. I would rather have the ensuing headline read LEGENDARY PLUMBER MURDERS PEDOPHILE than DISGRACED COACH COVERS FOR CHILD RAPIST.
For that failure, nobody bears more responsibility than me.
However, this letter is meant to indict not only myself, but anyone involved with the culture of football; the parents who see their physically gifted children as future money makers; the coaches–from Pop Warner, to the NFL–who too often turn a blind eye to these youngsters’ sometimes awful behavior; the teachers, professors and administrators who minimize the importance of grades for the sake of glory; the blind fanatics and alumni who defend what should never be excused or defended.
A society that raises its most physically gifted children as an unaccountable, privileged, elite should not be surprised when those same children grow up to violate the law, denigrate societal respect, and see themselves as far more important than they really are.
Ours is a pathology as destructive as Sandusky’s–and, as we have seen, they are eternally, tragically linked.
In the context of a great, accomplished university like Penn State, no one, excepting Jerry Sandusky, must be held to account for nurturing that disease more than me. I have heard Penn State officials decrying the influence of football and have heard such ignorant comments like Penn State will no longer be a “football factory” and we are going to “start” focusing on integrity in athletics.
If only future Penn State administrations can make that happen. Only then will five decades of football excellence and the contributions and success of the players and alumni of the football program be put in appropriate perspective.
When you take away the cheers, beer, and wall-to-wall media coverage, Penn State football alumni successes are no greater than the successes of the biology department or history department or those of any other University department alumni. Even if Penn State were a football factory, it is ALREADY a great University. We have world-class researchers, degree programs, and students in every discipline. Penn Staters have been pioneers in medical advancements, engineering, and in the humanities. Our graduates have gone on to change the world – sometimes, even graduates with football lettermen sweaters.
In the wake of my egregious failure, Penn Staters need to show the world we are a world class University. That is why recent alumni defending what I let happen at Penn State are so perplexing and ultimately damaging. Any Penn Stater who believes I reported to anyone in Happy Valley belies the education they received. Any alum who believes the buck did not stop and start at my desk is a blind fool.
Educated, intelligent people talking stupidly does not serve anyone’s interests–especially, the children, now adult, victims whom I let down
That same kind of inane, irrational loyalty is why I could not face the truth about Jerry Sandusky. My ignorance, my fear, metastasized throughout our football operations, into the athletic department and ultimately, the entire University.
When it became obvious something was terribly wrong, it was too late. We were compelled to cover it up.
Yes, we can recite with pride the ranks of our academic programs and the successes of our graduates. Penn Staters (and employers) know what we are and the quality of our education.
The smartest way to convey that message would be to immediately shut the hell up, especially about me and how great and successful Penn State is. Imagine trying to sell Korans the day after 9/11.
Instead, we must honestly explore how the leaders of such an outstanding institution of higher learning could fail so miserably.
The unstated irony writhing in these defensive spasms of denial highlights another reason why Penn State finds itself mired in a purely football scandal. Even though NO ONE has won more games while graduating more players, for over 46 years it has been my and my staff’s job to promulgate the myth that such a connection actually matters.
It’s like saying NO ICE CREAM STORE has won more awards and made more money fattening up more already obese people.
Myth-makers like me must convince loyal alumni and the outside world to look at the last 40 years of Penn State football as the aggregate achievements of hundreds of young men working to become better people as they got an education; to look at those men and what they have done in the world since they left Penn State and assess their contributions as an aggregate…
Forgive me, I can’t keep from laughing as I write the preceding paragraph. I actually believed that crap!
Here is a truth I covered up decades before Sandusky: like some students in any other discipline, at any other school–with several notable exceptions– major college football players are usually a collection of jocks who do nothing but skate by at a football factory, pretending to be men who earned an education and built a reputation second to none at a place where academic integrity and gridiron success could thrive together.
For over 60 years, I’ve tried to turn fantasy into reality like some warped alchemist slathering gold paint onto slag. I labeled it as my “Grand Experiment” never realizing one day the color would fade and my life’s work would be rendered meaningless.
So, where must we go from here?
After the University auctions my statue on E-Bay, I suggest the newly minted Board of Trustees institutes its own “death penalty.” Not by dismantling the football program for two years, but by capping all future Penn State head coaches’ and Trustees’ salaries at a limit equal to the salaries of the highest paid university employee.
All future football recruits must score at least 1200 on their SATs and be able to read, ALOUD, from any book—even a Dr. Seuss book.
In addition, the NCAA should vacate every victory credited to me as head coach from the date I should have dealt with Jerry Sandusky, thereby recognizing Bobby Bowden as the all-time winningest coach. (Lucky for me, my family left plenty of room in my casket for rolling over.)
I’m glad Coach Bowden will be number one because in my gut I know if those red-necks caught Sandusky raping a 10-year old boy in the locker room, he’d have been alligator waste the day after.
Whatever failings may have happened at Penn State started with me, my Titanic ego, lust for power and faith in a once dear friend who betrayed human decency. Whatever conclusions about my conduct you may wish to draw from a fair view of the allegations, it is inarguable that these actions had nothing to do with this last team or any of the hundreds of prior graduates of my “Grand Experiment.”
It’s on me, folks…No one else…
Penn Staters across the globe should feel no shame in saying “We are. Penn State.” This is a great university with one of the best academic performing football programs in major college athletics. Those are facts — and nothing that has been alleged changes them.
Too bad those facts no longer matter.
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