As one of the possible few who do not follow college football (though I am a fan of college songs), I came to respect the football program of the late Joe Paterno. I have never met him, though I would have liked to. He was the first coach I had ever heard of that placed a huge emphasis on the reason players and others should be going to college: Getting a good education. Coach Paterno guided many of his players in that direction, and some became superstars in the games of both football and life because of it.
I have spent many years in the military, as enlisted in the U.S. Navy and later an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve. In all branches of the military there is a highly renowned and respected order called "the chain of command." It has been so successful over the years, in fact, that many major corporations and companies, as well as other organizations, have adopted it, albeit with amendments in some cases.
One of the great successes of the chain of command is that one is expected to report to his or her first-in-line superior and no one else. That person is expected to evaluate and then pass the ball up the line in the same way. At some point, there is an ultimate decision-maker, and that person is then held accountable for whatever is done or not done.
Whether or not Penn state University used such a procedure, I do not know. I believe, however, that had PSU been a military organization, Mike McCreary, Paterno, and several of the others named in this sordid story would have been exonerated because they did what they should have done. The buck would have stopped at the university president's desk, since he was the ultimate authority who could have done something important.
Paterno impresses me as being a very caring person, and because of that, of course, he would offer a statement saying he wishes he had done more. I wish I could have done more too, though, goodness knows I don't know what that would have been since I only read about it in the papers.
Coach Paterno was a football coach. That is what he was hired to do, and did so well. He ran, arguably, the best football program in all of college football with love, compassion and integrity. He was not an investigator, attorney or tenured college administrator. I believe he followed his chain of command, and that is what he should have done.
Judge Louis Freeh's report on the situation seems much on target, though it misses on presuming more authority of Paterno than is deserved or warranted. It is right on, however, when it speaks of the "culture" of the university.
While alumni and many can speak proudly of the university's many successes, it has come at a cost. I believe part of that cost was that of silence, hoping it will all go away, the contributions will continue coming in to support its many programs, and people will eventually forget this terrible black mark in its history.
That kind of emphasis would be squarely on the shoulders of the board of trustees. I can only imagine the furor they would have collectively raised had Coach Paterno or any of the others skipped any protocol and gone to the police or the media. To the extent they may not have had in place a policy for this or other notable problems or potential problems, they would have to take full blame.
We can only hope this will be one of its "lessons learned," another important military procedure.
I believe the fair court of public opinion will honor Joe Paterno as they always have, and that is for producing the best possible football he could do for a university, which includes mentoring many a young man and making him a better person.
Coach Paterno should not be held even minimally responsible for a university's flawed hierarchy.
-- The Rev. Gene Edwards is a resident of Dover Town ship.