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Commentary: Paterno’s statement’s not enough, Penn State dropped ball

Jeff Schultz is a columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Joe Paterno will coach at least three more football games.

This is not going to be pretty.

Paterno confirmed this morning that he will retire at the end of the season. This follows ugly sexual abuse claims against former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky and the belief by many that school officials, including Paterno, may have been complicit in covering up the matter and/or could have done more to push for an investigation.

Paterno released a statement in which he conceded, “With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”

They were the proper words. But they should have been spoken, not released via email, before anybody at Penn State even considered allowing him back on the sideline.

I can’t imagine any university, company or entity handling a situation worse than how Penn State has handled the past few days.

Paterno’s complete statement:

“I am absolutely devastated by the developments in this case. I grieve for the children and their families, and I pray for their comfort and relief.

“I have come to work every day for the last 61 years with one clear goal in mind: To serve the best interests of this university and the young men who have been entrusted to my care. I have the same goal today.

“That’s why I have decided to announce my retirement effective at the end of this season. At this moment the Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status. They have far more important matters to address. I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can. This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.

“My goals now are to keep my commitments to my players and staff and finish the season with dignity and determination. And then I will spend the rest of my life doing everything I can to help this University.”

I wrote the other day about how sickening this whole saga is, that potentially something so despicable could go on for so long. Paterno had met his legal obligations in the Sandusky matter but questions about whether he had met his moral obligations lingered.

I also wrote that before I jumped on the growing “Paterno Must Go” bandwagon, I wanted to hear what he had to say — live, in a room, behind a microphone, with people. Granted, Paterno was being crushed by public opinion and it seemed implausible that he could not have known — 0r done –more. But to me it all seemed a little too much too fast, given Paterno’s stature and reputation before this story broke.

I believed that Paterno needed to get behind a microphone, answer every question, show remorse and make us believe that there was no intent on his part to cover up such alleged heinous crimes for a long-time friend.

Because anybody who enabled Sandusky also belongs behind bars.

But Penn State already has made its decision. That’s a mistake. It’s as if the university is allowing Paterno one final power play in State College.

It’s going to be ugly in “Happy Valley” at Saturday’s final home game against Nebraska.

It’s going to be ugly and scary when Paterno and Penn State go on the road for the final two games to Ohio State and Wisconsin.

If Paterno coaches in a bowl game, the atmosphere certainly is not going to seem like a season celebration, which is what bowl games were intended to be.

Penn State dropped the ball. And when everybody looks at Paterno on the sideline Saturday, the first thought most will have won’t be, “There’s a great football coach.”

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