The Woman Who Stood Up To Joe Paterno; Omerta, Never Virtue

CNN with “The Woman Who Stood Up to Joe Paterno,” a piece about Vicky Triponey, the former Penn State VP in charge of student discipline who profoundly clashed with Joe Paterno over how players should be punished for off-field infractions.

You should read the whole thing, but I was particularly interested in Paterno’s thinly-veiled misogyny:

“I am very troubled by the manipulative, disrespectful, uncivil and abusive behavior of our football coach,” she wrote. “It is quite shocking what this man — who is idolized by people everywhere — is teaching our students.”

Paterno clearly seemed to resent “meddling” from outsiders, even if Triponey was simply doing her job. She saw the dangers of special treatment that placed football players under a softer standard than other students lived by. She said it wasn’t right. But it was a battle she couldn’t win.

Paterno ridiculed her on a radio show as “that lady in Old Main” who couldn’t possibly know how to handle students because “she didn’t have kids.”

And there’s also this:

And then one day in late 2004, as disciplinary sanctions were being considered against a member of the football team, she received a visit from Paterno’s wife, who had tutored the player.

He’s a good kid, Sue Paterno said. Could they give him a break?

Triponey realized then that she wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Or even Connecticut.

By the next year, 2005, she was battling Paterno himself over who controlled how football players were disciplined. Paterno also chafed over enforcing Penn State’s code of conduct off campus.

Spanier called a meeting at which Paterno angrily dominated the conversation, Triponey recalled. She summarized the meeting in an e-mail to Spanier, Athletic Director Tim Curley and others, complaining that Paterno “is insistent that he knows best how to discipline his players” and that her department should back off.

And, perhaps most tellingly:

Tensions reached the breaking point in 2007 over how to discipline half a dozen players who’d been arrested at a brawl at an off-campus apartment complex. Several students were injured; one beaten unconscious.

Triponey met with Paterno and other university officials half a dozen times, although she preferred to remain neutral as the appeals hearing officer.

At the final meeting, Triponey urged the coach to advise his players to tell the truth. Paterno said angrily that he couldn’t force his players to “rat” on each other since they had to practice and play together. Curley and Spanier backed him up on that point, she said.

That thing about “ratting,”  you caught, that right?  I’m fairly certain Paterno didn’t come across that code of ethics in his celebrated study of Virgil and the Roman classics.  It sounds a lot more like omerta.

Forget that we’re conditioned to expect misogyny and reckless codes of male super-valuation from old men, or the Mafioso codes of silence or the parallels to the Catholic Church’s endless scandals. Over a lifetime, the Brown-educated, Latin-reading Paterno presented as someone fit and wise and cosmopolitan enough to lead the big business of Penn State football, and, over the course of time and through the gross misguidance of others that he did nothing to remedy (and seemingly encouraged), the University itself.

Turns out he hadn’t really been fit for any of these roles since 1998.  Maybe sooner.  I suspect we’ll’ learn more than we ever wanted to know about Joe Paterno in the coming weeks and months.  He can’t defend himself, it’s true.  But he had opportunities before he passed, and he continued lying to everyone, including the community he claimed to love and, most ironic for a life-long student of the classics, himself.

People With Cooler (Or At Least Other) Heads Are Making the Same Point

I don’t think I jumped to any conclusions last night when calling for, and continuing to call for, Joe Paterno’s termination.  Some friends disagreed, either with my assessment or with my contention that I wasn’t rushing to judgement.

In the larger context of this story, I want to share a few thoughts from some other people opining on the issue.  They’re not all calling for his termination, but they’re making the same basic points about what Paterno’s specific (and egregious) failings were in this sad, disgusting turn of events.  I believe those failings mean  Paterno must be fired.

Penn State vs. Kent State
Image by seng1011 via Flickr.

Paterno Still Hasn’t Answered The Question That Matters by David Jones of The Patriot-News.

Joe Paterno, Penn State Failed Miserably in Sad Sandusky Case by Michael Rosbenberg at Sports Illustrated.

An excerpt from Bill Plaschke:

What do you think would have happened if, say, Paterno had gone to his athletic director requesting a change of the shade of black on his football team’s legendary shoes. What if Curley had done nothing with the request? How long before Paterno did something himself? Maybe nine minutes?

Yet he tells Curley about an alleged child molester frolicking in his showers and then casually forgets about it for nine years?

At some point after informing the athletic director of the report, Paterno should have gone to Curley and said, “If you don’t do something, I will.”

Although this is not a gesture mandated by state law or school handbook, it is a fact of simple humanity.

“If you don’t do something, I will,” is a statement that now needs to be directed at the coach by the school’s board of trustees.

For the sake of a university whose continued association with him would damage its success and stain its honor, if Joe Paterno doesn’t quit, they should fire him.

Others are rightly pointing out that Paterno’s statement yesterday directly conflicts with the grand jury report which found that Paterno was told that Sandusky was seen committing acts of a sexual nature with a child in the locker room shower.

The upshot for Paterno is this: the national sports media will begin exposing the narrative that Paterno, rather lamely, tried to cover his ass with a tepid statement that stands in direct contrast to things he told the grand jury.  Things about what he knew and didn’t know.  In that light, Paterno’s press statement is callous at the very best, but is also slovenly, self-serving, and, frankly, despicable.

Because, as Paterno’s nominal superiors know, lying to the grand jury is perjury, let’s assume Paterno told the truth to the GJ and lied today to the press.  See paragraph immediately above.

Last night,  I felt as though PSU would let Paterno finish the season and then make him retire.  Now I think this cover-up of the cover-up of the cover-up has real traction.  A few more heads will roll before the week is out, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Paterno “resign” in short order.


The Grad Student’s Failure Doesn’t Make the Coach’s Failure Any Better

I didn't say "Penn Sate" or "Joe Paterno" once in this post, but look what WordPress did.

You’re a grad student. You witness a crime. Of course you should go to the police. Instead, you go to one of the most powerful people you’ll ever meet, a man who has prided his career on the development of men of character, and rather than go to the police, said coaching legend tells the AD and the VP of business and finance about what you said you saw. No one ever goes to the police. Heinous crimes against children continue for ten years. If you’re the grad student, you made a huge mistake and are as guilty or almost as guilty as the coach. Legally, you’ve both violated state law by not reporting to the authorities.  If you’re the coach, you’re still guilty, at least as much as the grad student, maybe more so because of your position in the community and because of your immense credibility. You should be fired. That’s it, and that’s all.

Should Penn State Fire Joe Paterno?

Main entrance of Old Main, at Penn State Unive...
Image via Wikipedia

First, let me be clear: I don’t know Jerry Sandusky or anyone involved in the investigation, but I believe the allegations against him are true.

Even if they’re not, Penn State should fire Joe Paterno.

In one instance, Sandusky’s alleged conduct was reported to Paterno by an eyewitness over 10 years ago.  Paterno passed the information on to Athletic Director Tim Curley and Senior VP for Business and Finance Gary Schultz.  Curley and Schultz did nothing with the information.  On Saturday, Penn State either fired or forced the resignation of both men, who now face arraignment and further criminal investigation.

Paterno claims he did what he was supposed to do by reporting the information to Curely and Schultz.

Consider this:  If Paterno were a Catholic bishop reporting alleged abuse to some peers or cardinals instead of the police, his ass would be in the fire in the court of public opinion (if not actual court).

He needs to go.