Dooley: Joe Paterno had to go

Joe Paterno was fired by Penn state on Wednesday night. (The Associated Press)

Published: Wednesday, November 9, 2011 at 11:54 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 9, 2011 at 11:54 p.m.

In the end, Joe Paterno had no choice.

Because when he had a choice, the winningest coach in college football history choked.

Paterno's firing was hardly a surprise Wednesday after it became obvious that he did the very minimum required legally when told that his former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was spotted sodomizing a 10-year old boy in the Penn State showers.

I never want to write the last part of that sentence again. It made my stomach turn the first time I heard it and every time I hear something about it on the radio I want to roll down the window and get some air.

The levels of disgust are over the top. Every emotion is an open wound. It's all so terrible. The alleged acts of a pedophile. The alleged cover-up. The former graduate assistant Mike McQueary who for some unfathomable reason didn't step into the shower room and stop this at the time in happened in 2002.

Instead, McQueary reported it to Paterno. McQueary didn't stop it. He didn't even say anything to Sandusky. And for that, he as been promoted up the ladder at Penn State. He should have been fired on the spot.

Paterno told his athletic director, then let it go at that. He protected his friend. He didn't even distance himself from Sandusky, who was spotted in the Penn State weight room last week working out according to Yahoo! reports.

And when the world found this out because of a grand jury, Paterno had to go.

“My thoughts are like everyone else in the country. It's one of the most tragic series of events we've ever seen,” said South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier. “Coach Joe did what he had to do. He's a good friend. I certainly admire everything he's done in the coaching profession.”

That's the sentiment of a lot of people, whether they are coaches or writers who covered Paterno. He was universally liked and respected. Now, he bears a scarlet letter painted with the lost innocence of young boys.

Paterno said he was fooled by Sandusky. Weren't we all fooled by Paterno?

While he was preaching ethics and honor, Paterno had this dirty little secret.

And now his legacy isn't tarnished. It's destroyed. Instead of remembering all of the good things Paterno did as a coach and a teacher, we will remember the six words that should be inscribed on his tombstone.

“I wish I had done more.”

But he didn't.

And that is a real tragedy.

Certainly, there is enough blame to go around the Happy Valley campus to fill Beaver Stadium with pink slips. Anyone who knew about the situation and did nothing — from the president of the university to anyone who even heard about the incident and looked the other way — deserved to be fired.

But in the end, it's Paterno who will leave us shaking our heads with the most vigor. Sandusky's alleged acts make us ill. Paterno's alleged cover-up makes us wonder if we can trust anyone ever again.

He was the educator, the teacher of men, the stubborn but lovable old man.

He did it the right way. That's why there was a rally outside his home Tuesday night. Those people should be ashamed of themselves. Especially if any of them have children.

If the allegations are true, Paterno didn't turn Sandusky into a monster. But he enabled him.

As a result, Joe Paterno won't be remembered for all of things he did at Penn State.

He'll be remembered for what he didn't do.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at

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