Suddenly, none of it matters anymore. Not a single bit of it.
With the release of the Freeh Report today, we now know the depth and scope of Paterno's involvement in the Jerry Sandusky scandal. It was a cover-up. A full blown cover-up. Not the "I told my boss one time and I guess that wasn't enough" garbage Paterno fed us before. That too would have been damnable on its own level, but not nearly so in the light of what actually happened.
Make no mistake, Paterno's crime was not one of inactivity or passivity. Far from it. Neither was it the act of "loyalty" or "friendship" that sympathizers make it out to be. While his friendship with Sandusky was surely a factor, the motivations and realities of what Joe Paterno did were more far-reaching and certainly more malevolent than a mere desire to protect ones friend from trouble By actively manipulating the university to cover-up Sandusky's crimes, Paterno not only withheld key information from law enforcement, thus obstructing justice, he also actively abetted a despicable monster in the rape of young children.
His motivation? Saving the university from embarrassment. Saving his own football program. Perhaps saving his own integrity since this was happening right under his nose in his own football facilities. This was not about doing a solid for a friend, it was about maintaining the strength of the program. So what if a few kids are getting hurt! Penn State must march on! Joe Pa must keep winning games!
But since there are still a large contingent of Paterno apologists out there, especially in Happy Valley, let me repeat these things one more time. Maybe it'll sink in when they're broken down:
Joe Paterno was close friends with a child rapist. Joe Paterno knew that his rapist friend was raping kids in the football facilities. Joe Paterno did not care enough about the welfare of these kids to contact the authorities. Joe Paterno led a criminal conspiracy to cover up the child rapes. By definition, this means Joe Paterno had an active hand in the rape of children by providing the place and sheltering the perpetrator.
This is the absolute truth. There is no way to get around it. What appalls me the most is that there are still people out there who make excuses for him. Just today, on ESPN, Matt Millen stated that Paterno made a "mistake" and wondered aloud whether all the other good things he did should be erased by this one "mistake."
First of all, the answer is obviously yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, YEEEEEEEEEEEES. No question.
Second of all, people need to stop calling this a "mistake." A mistake would be if Paterno took a player out to dinner after the game without realizing he was breaking an NCAA rule. A mistake would be if Paterno didn't keep a close enough watch on his guys and one of them took a car. That's a mistake. What Joe Paterno did was NOT a mistake. It was an unforgivable act of evil that should never, ever be minimized no matter what Paterno did with the rest of his life. All the wins, all the bowl games, all the championships -- even the library and the millions of dollars of donations he made to various charities -- they do not even come close to redeeming Paterno for what he did. Any other opinion but this is stupid, idiotic, uninformed, and quite frankly, it makes me question you as a human being.
Even if people use the "mistake" cop-out for the rest of eternity, for once, just this once, let's call it like it is. Paterno did not make a mistake. He made a conscious decision to actively partake in an unspeakable horror. After today's reveal, there simply is no denying it. His legacy is not simply "tarnished," as some have suggested; it's blown to a billion pieces as if someone shot it point blank with an RPG. Joe Paterno is a despicable individual who absolutely deserves the deepest pits of hell for what he did. Those who were apologists before, like Rick Reilly and Colin Cowherd, need to wake up. And those who continue to donate money to Penn State, you should be ashamed of yourself. I have no respect for you.
As for the university, it will be interesting to see what happens in the coming days. Several months ago, Prince and I put ourselves on the record as saying the NCAA Death Penalty should be in play here (*). I still believe that. Never has the term "Lack of Institutional Control" been more appropriate than in this situation. And while it didn't involve a typical rules violation, it certainly has plenty of relevance to sports. For goodness sakes, Sandusky was the Defensive Coordinator! Joe Paterno was the coach! The Athletic Director was involved! It all went down in the facilities! How much more relevance do you need?!
(*) Seriously, apologists, how could you not see this cover-up from the very beginning? It was plain as day to see! If dopes like me and Prince can figure this thing out, then anybody can.
But even if the NCAA doesn't technically have the right to punish Penn State, I think there is a very clear alternative. The Big Ten should kick Penn State out. Immediately. And after that, the rest of Division I should refuse to schedule them. Enact their own brand of justice, Raylan Givens style. Understandably, this would be a drastic move for the conference and the out-and-out blackball of Penn State would likely lead to litigation, but so what? The crimes Penn State committed were drastic, and it's more important to take a stand on that then to think about wallets.
In case you can't tell, I feel very strongly about this. This university does not have the right to compete at the highest level right now. They forfeited that when they put athletics above the welfare of children. And if the Big Ten stands for everything they say they do (academics, excellence, integrity) then they need to cut out Penn State. Any other solution is simply not good enough.