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Sunday, February 18, 2024

Re-naming a Stadium & White-Washing History

This will be short, simple and to the point.

Renaming Beaver Stadium to Honor Joe Paterno

Yes, there has been some movement among trustees of the Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) to rename the school's stadium from the current Beaver Stadium to one that features former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.

Just to save time, this is at the root of the controversy:

Penn State Scandal

From the above link...

March 2, 2002 - Graduate Assistant Mike McQueary tells Coach Joe Paterno that on March 1, he witnessed Sandusky sexually abusing a 10-year-old boy in the Lasch Building showers. On May 7, 2012, prosecutors file court documents to change the date of the assault to on or around February 9, 2001.

March 3, 2002 - Paterno reports the incident to Athletic Director Tim Curley. Later, McQueary meets with Curley and Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz. McQueary testifies that he told Curley and Schultz that he saw Sandusky and the boy engage in anal sex; Curley and Schultz testify they were not told of any such allegation. No law enforcement investigation is launched.

May 6, 2016 - CNN reports the story of another alleged victim who explains how he was a troubled young kid in 1971 when Sandusky raped him in a Penn State bathroom. He says his complaint about it was ignored by Paterno.

July 12, 2016 - Newly unsealed court documents allege that Paterno knew about Sandusky’s abuse and that he dismissed a victim’s complaint.

A bottom line of sorts, for me, is this:  At some point, Joe Paterno did follow the letter of the law in reporting the abuse allegation.  He did not, however, follow the spirit of the law.  He did just enough to try and move past the controversy in order to focus back on football.  Simply put, that's not enough.  As I noted in a Facebook comment, if what happened was some NCAA rules violation, then I'd be somewhat sympathetic.  But this was something that involved sexual abuse.  This was more important than football.  For coach Paterno though it was not.  

Joe Paterno had a moral obligation to put the welfare of children and young adults before that of his football program.  He should be held to a higher standard over and above simply compliance.  He did not do that, and that is unforgiveable.

Does this tarnish everything that Joe Paterno did at Penn State?  No.  He still has a library named after him, which is fitting given his reputation for nominally insisting that Penn State football players also be serious students.  I also happen to believe that his coaching record should not reflect the scandal, and attempts to somehow erase what he accomplished as a coach were/are a bad idea, as it punishes the students who played on all of his teams.

I don't have much of a voice when it comes to Penn State internal politics, but I'm not without one either.  As a graduate, Life Member of the Alumni Association, benefactor to the university (helping to fund a scholarship at Penn State Harrisburg), former board member of the Penn State Harrisburg Alumni Society and member of the Atherton Society, I think I've earned the right to express an opinion.  And express an opinion to the Trustees and Administration I will.

Joe Paterno does not deserve the honor of having a stadium named after him.  Doing so is an insult to the victims of sexual abuse and to those alumni of Penn State who view the university as far more than just a football team.  Penn State is better than this.

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