Is there anyone who can name the people other than Joe Paterno that lost their job amid the Jerry Sandusky scandal? I certainly cannot, and would venture to make the assertion that the many individuals following this story are in the same boat. In translation, Joe Paterno was Penn State. He is the reason thousands of students chose to attend and thousands more applied for admission…to be a part of the culture he created. I mention this because while so many think it must have been difficult to fire such a legacy…a legend…I do not. Afterall, who should get/accept the blame when an organization or team fall short of expectations? The leader. JoePa was the leader of Penn State and his knowledge of indiscretions among his coaching staff should not have been tolerated.
The interim university president (who I also cannot name) made the statement that in moving forward ”Penn State would not only do what is required under the law, we will also do what is right.” This statement is as much an issue of rebuke as it is one of promise. The implied message is that the chain of command may have been respected/adhered to but appropriate ethics and morals were not. Further, there is a notion offered in his comments that part of doing what is right is to push other individuals, whether “higher” in position title or otherwise, to answering to a higher moral code.
Let’s assume the story did not involve a coach, rather a player acting sexually inappropriate with children. The university would have gone public from minute one. There would have been no question of what was the right thing to do. And this is exactly what I think the interim president was getting at…the concern was not in doing what was right, it was in protecting the integrity and reputation of the university by way of “but we told the proper authorities.”