Penn St. scandal should force Paterno out

We worship corporations and institutions. Our Supreme Court granted them First Amendment rights. The Fourth Estate, the alleged watchdogs of democracy, acts as their mouthpiece.

There should be no surprise that protecting Joe Paterno, Penn State, Happy Valley and Linebacker U — profit-generating institutions at the core of big-time college athletics’ amateur myth — appears to have taken precedence over the protection of children.

It’s the era we live in. Institutions are valued more than human beings.

Safeguarding JoePa, marketing and exploiting his march to victory 409, appears to have been more important than exposing allegations against longtime defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, charged with sexually abusing teenage boys.

Let’s not ignore the timing of the release of the grotesque and shocking grand jury report/indictments, conveniently revealed a week after Paterno surpassed Grambling’s Eddie Robinson on the all-time wins list. A two-year investigation wrapped up just as JoePa placed a bow on his legacy and 11 months after Paterno testified in front of the grand jury examining Sandusky’s alleged two decades of heinous perversion.

Coincidence? Not in my eyes.

No one involved in the tragic handling of the allegations against Sandusky is worthy of sympathy and benefit of doubt without first answering some very direct and serious questions.

Not Paterno. Not Mike McQueary, the graduate assistant-turned-recruiting coordinator who reportedly witnessed Sandusky rape a young boy in the Penn State locker room in 2002. Not Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, the former Penn State administrators accused of covering up the 2002 rape. Not Penn State president Graham Spanier. And not anyone involved in the rug-swept 1998 investigation into allegations of sexually criminal behavior against Sandusky that might have played some role in Sandusky’s abrupt 1999 retirement and self-admitted realization he’d never be Paterno’s successor.

Until questions are answered thoroughly and forthrightly, all of these people, including the people rationalizing Paterno’s weak actions upon hearing about the 2002 incident, are guilty of valuing the JoePa myth more than the reality of the vulnerability and preciousness of human life.

Four hundred and nine victories at what cost?

If there is an ounce of dignity left in Paterno’s vain and delusional 84-year-old body, he will step down from his throne today. His written excuse is preposterous.

“If true, the nature and amount of charges made are very shocking to me and all Penn Staters,” Paterno said in a statement. “While I did what I was supposed to with the one charge brought to my attention, like anyone else involved I can’t help but be deeply saddened these matters are alleged to have occurred. . . . If this is true, we were fooled, along with scores of professionals trained in such things, and we grieve for the victims and their families. They are in our prayers.

“As my grand jury testimony stated, I was informed in 2002 by an assistant coach that he had witnessed an incident in the shower of our locker room facility. It was obvious that the witness was distraught over what he saw, but he at no time related to me the very specific actions contained in the Grand Jury report. Regardless, it was clear that the witness saw something inappropriate involving Mr. Sandusky. As Coach Sandusky was retired from our coaching staff at that time, I referred the matter to university administrators.”

At age 75, Paterno sought plausible deniability from the allegations of criminal behavior inside the Penn State locker room of his 30-year employee. Rather than immediately demand that Sandusky appear and explain himself, the world-famous molder of men passed the responsibility along to the athletic director, who has far less real power than Paterno. Paterno could have done a helluva lot more. Rather than call the police, Paterno seemingly gathered as little information as possible and slipped back into his JoePa facade.

Witnessing this cowardice and hypocrisy, it appears, made Mike McQueary want to be a Joe Paterno assistant coach for the next decade. I don’t understand McQueary, a former Penn State quarterback, at all. He allegedly saw a naked old man raping a naked young boy, and McQueary ran out of the locker room. He took no action to protect the boy? McQueary is at least 30 years younger than Sandusky. Coaching is supposed to be about helping young people develop.

But money and fame have perverted the profession. It’s now an occupation to pleasure vanity. Joe Paterno should’ve retired 20 years ago. His ego wouldn’t allow it. Dean Smith, the far more self-aware basketball version of Paterno, retired at age 66. But coach Smith owned the Division I record for victories when he retired. North Carolina didn’t need to prop him up for a decade so he could surpass Adolph Rupp.

There should be an asterisk next to JoePa’s 409 victories. And if not an asterisk, at least a dollar sign, America’s favorite religious symbol, our justification for valuing institutions more than human beings.