The Penn State Board of Trustees did the right thing tonight, finally, in firing Joe Paterno. I want to say it's a tragedy, but I don't want to be misunderstood -- I mean it in the Greek sense of the word. This was a case of hubris and the damage it can cause. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I think what we'll end up learning is that Penn State football and Joe Paterno thought they were above the law, that they knew better and, of course, that what they thought was right was whatever it took to protect their own reputations and the money-making behemoth of Penn State football. Now they've been taken down by their own arrogance. It's classical tragedy. Pride goeth before a fall.
Joe Paterno has apparently announced that he is retiring from Penn State... at the end of the year! As I said below, Paterno has to go and has to go now. His claim that he didn't know anything about Sandusky other than that he was "horsing around" with young boys is risible. Consider this timeline:
1. Sandusky is in line to take over for Joe Pa in the late 1990s.
2. Paterno learns of allegations of pedophilia against Sandusky in 1998.
3. Paterno and Penn State (redundant... Paterno is Penn State) eases Sandusky out in 1999 and into a "retirement" where he still has access to Penn State facilities (and to young boys) in order to protect Sandusky and, more importantly, to protect the money-making enterprise that is a big-time college football program.
4. Paterno learns of new allegations against Sandusky in 2002 from a graduate assistant (basically like an intern... a guy trying to break into coaching and getting paid nothing). He puts pressure (perhaps implicit) on the young graduate assistant to keep his mouth shut, gives him a job on his staff, and then pushes the allegations up the chain of command with sugarcoating (no anal rape... just "horsing around"). Let the Athletic Department deal with it and, wink, wink, make sure that nothing sticks to Joe Pa.
5. Paterno and Penn State continue to look the other way for another nine years after that while Sandusky still has access to Penn State facilities (and to young boys).
I think that's a more plausible version of the facts than what Paterno is pushing.
Paterno can't be allowed to coach another game at Penn State, period. Today's announcement of his retirement is him going rogue to try to leverage his power at the university to survive to the end of the year. I don't think it's going to work.
Oh, and one other reason why Paterno has to go yesterday. The inevitable theory of the lawsuit against Penn State will be that the university administration was afraid of Paterno's power within the university community, and therefore covered up the allegations. If they let Paterno stay through the end of the year, or even through the end of the week, that will just be evidence that yes, in fact, they were scared of Paterno's power, and thought covering up child rape was the path of least resistance.
They're going to lose the lawsuit big anyway, but letting Paterno stay will just make it easier for the Plaintiffs.