After 46 years and a career that had gone down as the best in college sports history, Joe Paterno has announced that he’s retiring at the end of this season, his reputation in tatters over a child abuse sex scandal that has shaken all of Penn State.
“At this moment the Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status. They have far more important matters to address. I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can. This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more,” the statement reads.
The backwards chronology of the announcement is in keeping with the inadequate way the university has handled the scandal, starting years ago.
A grand jury report about the allegations came out last week, with Paterno’s former* assistant Jerry Sandusky charged with sexually abusing eight boys over the course of 15 years. Paterno learned about one possible incident back in 2002 and instructed a graduate assistant to alert another member of the Penn State staff rather than going immediately to the police. As the investigation of the case continues, it appears the school tried to cover up the allegations. Yesterday, the school said it was pulling together a team to dig into the matter further. Shame, shame on all of you.
The failure to respond to these allegations (from a PR standpoint) touched every level of what would have been appropriate. In this age of social media and given the reputation of the Penn State football team and its coach, there’s no way that days, let alone years, should’ve passed before action was taken.
After outrage had spread internationally, the school even cancelled its regularly-scheduled press conference yesterday, less than an hour before it was set to take place. A spokesperson handed members of the media the following statement:
“Due to the on-going legal circumstances surrounding the recent allegations and charges, we have determined that today’s press conference cannot be held and will not be rescheduled.”
The New York Times thought it necessary to remind the school today, “ignoring a scandal doesn’t make it go away,” and continues its column with unanimous commentary from seemingly every Pennsylvania outlet and sports reporter, declaring the school’s response a PR disaster.
“If the circumstances weren’t so tragic, the idea that the university is still trying to steer Paterno to a graceful exit would be funny,writes Bob Ford in the Philadelphia Inquirer, because the opportunity for that is now pure fantasy,” it reads.
According to O’Dwyer’s, Paterno has brought in TMG Strategies, an MSLGroup firm, to handle the crisis.
If there is one scintilla of positive to be pulled from this tragic shit show, it comes from the L.A. Times, which reports on the reactions of some groups that say this could bring some much-needed attention to the issue of child sex abuse.
Clarification: We added the word “former” to clarify that Sandusky is no longer with Penn State. ESPN has timeline of Sandusky’s career and the case here if you can stomach it.