Weatherford Democrat


August 2, 2012

COLUMN: Players don't deserve punishment

— Poor Joe! Yes, I’m talking about the football coach Joe Paterno.

You may have guessed that I am originally a resident of the Keystone state, but a Texan since way back in 1979. Of course, I still follow football played on both the east and west sides of Pennsylvania — that being Penn State on the east and the Pittsburgh Steelers on the west. I’m sure you have all heard or read about the Jerry Sandusky scandal. I am putting my two cents worth of opinion on this happening. You might not like what I have to say because Texans in this area, especially sports writers, are still upset about the SMU “death penalty.”

In my opinion, we have here a typical example of extreme punishment meted out to those people who had absolutely nothing to do with ex-coach Sandusky’s abhorrent behavior. In this case, the present young football players and their coaches, plus a dead man (Paterno) unable to defend himself. The taxpayers of Pennsylvania have also been made to pay $60 million to the victims.

You have all heard of fair weather friends. It seems as though Joe Paterno had more than his share of them. All of those sports writers from all over the country who once could not give Joe too many accolades turned on him as if he was the devil himself. This man, Joe, spent his entire career at Penn State teaching young men not only how to play football but to learn good sportsmanship, to be good students and to be men of good character. His hard work made him the coach with the most wins in college football. No story I ever read had a bad word to say about poor Joe. After his death, we suddenly read that Joe ran Penn State University. Whatever Joe wanted, the authorities gave him, he was the KING of the campus.

Joe ran one thing — the football program and that was all. The president ran the university. His success in football was unsurpassed so I am sure that authorities met his salary request and gave him whatever he thought he needed to run the football program. I heard Joe say on a TV interview before he died that when Sandusky’s bad behavior with young boys was reported to him that he reported it to the person he reported to. This would be the person Joe was under in the chain of command. He did not ignore the info but gave it to higher ups to handle. I’m not privy to what happened after that but it was clearly the responsibility of the proper authorities to investigate the charges and when found true to separate Sandusky from the university completely and then report it to the police. This was not done and years went by with Sandusky having campus privileges.

Please note that in today’s employer-employee relationship, an employee cannot be fired on hearsay reports. An investigation of the report is necessary and if found true the employee can be dismissed. You may have noted that in most high profile cases including the police, the employee is put on leave either with or without pay until the investigation is complete. You may also have noted the plight of whistleblowers; they sometimes end up getting fired and have to sue to get their jobs back. That, in my humble opinion, is why Joe reported the situation to higher authorities to handle.

Where were all of Joe’s friends? Most, but not all, were very quiet until poor Joe died. Then the hand wringing over the victims of Sandusky began. “Joe should have done this, Joe should have done that,” and so on and so on. Ask yourself what would have happened to Joe if he had gone public without sufficient proof. This is the type of case that people think you do not care about the victims if you do not immediately jump on the bandwagon of popular opinion. This is totally wrong but no one desires to be so labeled.

This is another case, popular with lawyers today, of putting the blame where the money is. The NCAA should have stayed out of this case. The football program had nothing to do with Sandusky’s horrible crimes. These young football players are bearing the brunt of the NCAA sanctions. They also ruin the reputation of a good man. The NCAA may have taken away 111 Penn State wins on paper, but the players and fans will always remember those victories.

We all feel sorry for the immoral things done to the victims by coach Sandusky; the court trial found him guilty and he has been sentenced to jail. Some justice has been done to enable the victims to recover and feel better but I doubt if the scars will ever be erased.

Pray for their complete recovery.

Guest columnist William J. Kelly is a Parker County resident and served as 2nd Lt. in World War II in the Eighth Air Force of the US Army/Air Corp.

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