Its been over three years now since the Sandusky abuse scandal shook the nation. For the most part the media and the world have moved on. Those of us with close ties to Penn State are still living with the aftershocks. In the early days the media spent more time talking about iconic football coach Joe Paterno then they did Sandusky or the victims. There was talk of conspiracies and cover-ups by Paterno and others. In the summer of 2012 the Freeh report was released and soon the NCAA sanctioned Penn State’s football program.
To many, the whole scandal illustrated the problem of caring about football too much. People talked of a “football factory” and of athletics being put above academics. For those of us close to Penn State, this all sounded like so much bull. Paterno’s players consistently ranked near the top in graduation rates. This one fact rarely made the news as it did not fit the narrative the media was running with. The truth is that if you wanted to play football in college, not do much in class, and get to the NFL as easily as possible, Penn State was not for you. Penn State players went to class, studied and graduated.
Long after the Freeh report and sanctions were released, many people are still fighting for the truth to come out. Jay Paterno, son of Joe, is one such man. His book, The Paterno Legacy, is a combination memoir and defense of his father’s integrity and life work. Overall it is a fantastic book – rambling at times but moving and heart-wrenching. Jay paints a picture of his father, showing him as a great man who did all he could for the young men entrusted to him on the football team and beyond that for the university as a whole.
Jay also works to tear down the Freeh report and the narrative portraying his father, and the football program, as knowingly covering up Sandusky’s crimes. Of course, it is on a near weekly basis, even after the publication of this book, that news comes out to show the Freeh report was not as objective as they claimed but in actuality was in collusion with the NCAA from the beginning. Jay emphasizes that two wrongs do not make a right – scapegoating his father does not help Sandusky’s victims and defending his father does not mean one does not care about the victims. The truth is that Sandusky fooled everyone. He was a foster parent for years and the experts who worked for the state of PA to approve foster parents were fooled by Sandusky. How can we expect a football coach to discover what others with far more expertise did not?
This is a must-read book for any Penn Stater, but beyond that it ought to be read by those who rushed to judgment on a man who lived a tremendous life. My fear is that such people will not read the book, they have already passed judgment and moved on. Hopefully the truth will continue to come out.
Thank you Jay for a great work. I love Penn State and continue to admire Joe Paterno. The two are tied in to any person’s life who attended school there – I studied in the Paterno library and prayed in the chapel the Paternos donated money to build. Those on the outside may see a football factory but they are simply wrong, Penn State is so much more and, as many have said, We Are because He Was.