What will Joe Paterno tell his team about the Sandusky scandal?
The coach must address the issue with the team and provide an explanation - and that's just the beginning as he faces the biggest challenge of his astounding career
About 31,000 times Joe Paterno has awakened in the morning. Today was one of the toughest.
Then again, did he sleep last night? At all this weekend?
After nearly 85 years on this earth, Paterno's life will never be the same, thanks to Jerry Sandusky's alleged heinous acts.
He arose to the news that longtime PSU AD Tim Curley and VP of business and finance Gary Schultz have stepped down (Curley on leave, Schultz retired), after being charged with perjury in the child sex scandal case against Sandusky, a longtime PSU assistant coach who retired in 1999.
The national media have convened on Penn State for live reports.
The Board of Trustees held an emergency meeting Sunday, after which Curley and Schultz - both longtime PSU administrators - stepped down. But the BOT made a point of saying that neither Paterno's nor PSU president Graham Spanier's resignation were discussed.
Both have a long way to go, however. While the media primarily is focused on asking what Paterno knew and what he did or didn't do (simply because he is Joe Paterno), equally as important if underreported is what Spanier knew and did.
Some information about the infamous 2002 allegation against Sandusky reached Spanier, through Curley and Schultz, according the the grand jury report. It is the job of administrators to act accordingly to such information. Obviously the grand jury felt it was Curley and Schultz who shirked that duty. But the BOT certainly will convene again, and ultimately could think Spanier failed to act properly. Spanier wasn't charged, but he might be fired.
Paterno, too. It's possible. PSU will be investigating this debacle. Schultz, and maybe Curley, probably won't be the only casualties.
So there are a great many things Paterno will be dealing with now besides his actual head coaching duties, which has been his job for 46 years, and for which he is considered one of the best of all time, and most revered. These final three games, of what had been a successful season and now will only be known as the season during which "It" happened, will be the longest three weeks of his career.
Paterno might be wrestling with his conscience. He might be anxiously sorting through his memory bank. He might be exhausted from the stress and strain. (It is not inconceivable that this will wear on Paterno to such an extent that he's forced to resign for health reasons). He might be very, very angry. He might be despondent and demoralized. He might be wondering what else will come out: Will there be more accusations against Sandusky?
Will Paterno bear the brunt of all of this, despite the grand jury lauding his actions, simply because he's Joe Paterno and should have been able to stop it?
Yesterday, Paterno released a statement. Today he must address his team.
Obviously the PSU players have been taking this all in with a mixture of confusion and anger and a million other feelings.
Paterno, obviously, owes the team a thorough explanation. His decorated life has been devoted to Penn State football players. Literally thousands of them. And their families. Year after year, season after season, generation after generation. Paterno has molded Penn State football players from boys into men, from high school stars into accomplished collegians. His reputation for doing so is as exceptional as any, ever.
These young men will look at him today and wonder: What the hell is going on?
Paterno has been in physical decline. RFBS thought almost certainly this would be his last season even before the scandal broke. It will be an old man who today stands before about 100 players, plus the assistant coaches - many who worked with Sandusky years ago - and perhaps other staff, in a large, silent room. He will start talking. For a long time.
Will he talk about the Jerry Sandusky he knew 30, 40 years ago? For many of the players, Jerry Sandusky is merely a name somehow connected to the football program from the distant past. Will he recount his grand jury testimony and everything he knows? Will he take the team through a timeline of events in this saga? Will he talk about adversity? Will he talk about right and wrong and personal choices? Will he talk about abuse of children, about protocol, about the law, about justice? About family? About focusing on your responsibilities? Will he talk about football? Will he make analogies? Will he try to rally and inspire? Will he be somber throughout?
And, when he is finished, what will be the mindset of his players?
This is one of many big steps for Paterno in the coming days. While the media (as is their nature in anything of this sort) may be highly skeptical of his clearance after the nearly three-year investigation by the grand jury, the media actually is a peripheral player to Paterno right now. Others take a higher place in line: family, associates, confidants, players, former players, assistant coaches, brethren in the coaching community, students, faculty, Board members and hundreds of thousands of Penn State fans and alumni. That's Paterno's court of public opinion, in nutshell.
But it starts somewhere. Yesterday, with the statement. Today, with his team.
If his conscience is clean and his health allows and if he is determined to maintain his reputation, if he knows he's worked too hard for too long and done too much the right way for it all to end so horribly, catastrophically wrong because of these allegations, then this is the process Paterno must go through. His age be damned.
He might fail regardless. As more information comes forth, widespread sentiment could turn against him, rightly or wrongly - this may or may not end fairly for him. The Board could force him to resign, or fire him. He might not even finish out the season. His health could make the decision for him.
Or things could turn in his favor as more information is unveiled - Paterno a victim of Sandusky's wicked, compulsive mental illness, and of Curley and Schultz's gross, irresponsible mismanagement, and of the carelessness of others? It could happen. Time will tell.
Right now, today, it's about the 100 or so young men he is supposed to be leading into the final three critical games of the season. That he's supposed to be leading through the final formative years of their lives.
JoePa will start talking.
Saturday is Senior Day.
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