Joe Paterno: A Legacy in Jeopardy

The New York Times is reporting that Joe Paterno’s 46-year run as Penn State’s football coach will soon be over.

If so, it is hard to think of a sadder exit for a coaching icon.

No coach in college athletics has meant more to his sport than Joe Paterno. When you think of a coach doing things the right way, you think of Joe Paterno. Others cut corners when it came to the rules.

Joe Pa didn’t.

He stood for the highest ideals on and off the field.

This scandal involving his former, long-time defensive coordinator doesn’t take away the wins and achievements on the field. It has a more devastating effect on Joe Paterno.

It impacts how we feel about the coach.

We still don’t know just what coach Paterno was told in 2002 by a then-grad assistant, identified as Mike McQueary, a current Penn State coach. We know that, according to the Pennsylvania Attorney General, Paterno did relay the information he was given to Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley.

The question is: Why didn’t Paterno follow-up on what we now know were serious allegations of child abuse?

We don’t know.

I long have believed that there are two things in life over which we have complete control —- effort and attitude. I have a website devoted to that concept. And on that website has been this quote from Joe Paterno:

Many people, particularly in sports, think of success and excellence as though they are the same. They are not. Success is perishable and often outside our control. In contrast, excellence is something that’s lasting, dependable and largely within a person’s control.
Joe Paterno

That’s the Joe Paterno that has earned a special place among sports educators.

And that is the legacy in jeopardy now.

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