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Wednesday, Feb. 21
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

Column: The scandal’s newest victim

Perhaps the hardest thing to stomach about the death of one of the greatest coaches in American sports history is that we could all see it coming.

In October 2011, when Penn State played IU in Bloomington, I caught a brief glance of Joe Paterno from about 20 feet away before a postgame press conference.

He looked just as he had for 20 years: healthy and, given the Nittany Lions’ win that day, happy.

When Joe Paterno was fired as Penn State’s football coach, it broke him.

The man in the gray sweatshirt who stepped outside his home after his firing and quietly addressed the Penn State student body just a month later was not the same man.

Football was vitality for Joe Paterno, and at that moment, it was gone for good.

With due respect to his family, football was what Paterno lived for. I feared then that Paterno was not long for life without football.

Bear Bryant, a man who belongs alongside Paterno in college football’s pantheon of greatness, died 27 days after coaching his last game. Paterno lasted 86.

Officially, lung cancer complications ended Paterno’s life.

But that is not what it really was, is it?

Doctors have described a condition for years known as Broken Heart Syndrome that can lead to quick death from emotional stress.

This might not have been the death of a spouse or loved one, but it was such a part of his life that I do not doubt for a second that it had the same effect.

Had Paterno not been fired as suddenly and ungracefully as he was, I believe he would still be alive today.

And that is why I think it is such a shame that he was fired.

I know few will agree with me, but Joe Paterno should still be Penn State’s coach today.

The offenses committed by Jerry Sandusky are undeniable and atrocious. He is human scum and deserves to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

Same with the athletic director and school president whose responsibility it was to go to the authorities but did nothing.

Paterno, however, did his job. He reported what he knew to his superiors.

Could he have done more?

Perhaps. Is the fact that he did not grounds for dismissal? Absolutely not.

Hoards of people vilified him for not doing more. I ask, though, how many of them would have the guts to do more. Paterno had to have been scared, and I cannot blame him.

The deception of a supposedly trustworthy colleague could be an earthshaking revelation, and Paterno had to know that getting more involved would put at risk what he had spent decades working for at Penn State.

Yet Paterno was fired. There are some sick people among the boosters and boards of Penn State who were probably overjoyed when the Sandusky story broke.

They had wanted an excuse to fire him for years, but with his team remaining strong, there was no excuse.

Now there was. Paterno’s enemies got their way, and as a result, one of history’s greatest coaches paid a price greater than anyone else in this debacle.

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