A Letter to Penn State Students About the Firing of Joe Paterno

Dear students of Penn State University,

It is a dark day for you at Penn State University. For the first time in 46 years, Joe Paterno will not be the head coach of the Nittany Lions. For the first time in 62 years, Paterno will not be a part of the Penn State football program. It may be hard to accept the fact that the very institution that Paterno loved, honored and served all these years has relieved him of his coaching duties. But know that it had to be done.

Paterno was involved in the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal. The grand jury report says it all. According to the report, Paterno knew there was an alleged sex offender in his midst and he did nothing about it. Yes, he fulfilled his legal obligation and reported the matter to his supervisor. But it went no further. Paterno watched as days turned to months and months turned to years. The alleged sex abuse by Sandusky continued. More young boys were victimized and Paterno could have stopped it. All he had to do was call the police. Instead, he chose to protect himself, his team and his university by doing the least amount possible. There is a statue of Paterno near Beaver Stadium that reads, “I Made Penn State a Better Place.” Paterno has done just the opposite. His inaction and lack of moral responsibility has made Penn State a much worse place.

All you have lost is a football coach, one of the greatest football coaches of all time. You have a new coach and the football program will continue. Recovery is not so easy for the child victims. These children have been scarred for life. They may never fully recover from this and they have their whole lives ahead of them. Some of you may have children of your own in a few years. Then you will understand the horror that should have been avoided. What if it was your 10-year old brother who was victimized because Paterno did not care enough to report Sandusky to the authorities?

You should feel proud of Penn State for doing the right thing. Finally, someone at Penn State said “enough is enough.” Someone had the courage to say that football does not come before the university and its values. Even the great Joe Paterno must be held accountable. Penn State has taught you a lesson about honor and integrity, values that would have stopped Sandusky nine years ago.

The Penn State Alma Mater contains the line “May no act of ours bring shame.” Tragically, that is what Paterno brought upon the university: shame. By firing Paterno, Penn State reaffirmed its beliefs and values. Now the healing can begin. If you think this is difficult, think about the real victims.

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