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Scandal's attention dissipates with Paterno's death

By Michael Margavitch, Columnist

Hofstra students may sometimes show frustration towards the university, but like any other college student, they show pride when it counts. However, pride affects our objectivity. If a scandal occurred among any member of our faculty, would we look at that scandal and deny that an employee on our campus would do such a thing?  In the case of Penn State, the second path was chosen.

 Joe Paterno, the longtime head football coach for the Penn State Nittany Lions, has always been presented as a beloved figure in college sports. By the end of his career, Paterno had racked up over 400 victories, becoming the only NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision coach to achieve this feat. Five of the teams he coached were undefeated and won major bowl games.  Under his leadership, the Nittany Lions claimed two national championships in 1982 and 1986.  His accomplishments proved sufficient for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2007.

Last month, Paterno lost his battle with lung cancer. The media coverage that followed emphasized the heroic aspects of JoePa, as he is affectionately known. The media, however, glossed over the scandal that threatens to overshadow his many successes.

In terms of the legality of Paterno's case, the coach did nothing wrong.  He informed his immediate supervisor, fulfilling his legal obligation. Nevertheless, Paterno could have gone straight to the police or he could have sought confirmation that the incident was reported.  Of course, we cannot put the blame squarely on him. There are several other people involved in this chain of apparent indifference. Paterno was, however, a link in the chain that allowed the continuation of Sandusky's deplorable behavior and the suffering of children.

Despite this, the media painted Paterno as the martyr.  The Board of Trustees relieved Paterno of his coaching duties early November, and they became the enemy. Penn State students showed their support for JoePa not only by gathering outside of his house and cheering, but by rioting on the campus.  They were unwilling to believe this respected legend was involved in a cover-up. 

Following Paterno's death, tributes highlighted the positive. He was portrayed as a martyr in life and a hero in death. The accomplishments will be remembered, but both the media and the public's unwillingness to acknowledge wrongdoing will prevent Paterno's legacy from being tarnished. He's the Teflon man. Nothing negative will stick to him.

Who cares if Paterno is remembered fondly for his accomplishments? Who cares if we don't dwell on the wrong in which he was involved? The victims and their families certainly care.  JoePa could have done something more to save children from abuse.  As a result of his neglect or indifference, Jerry Sandusky was able to continue his abuse for seven more years. Even if the media and public want to forget, the victims do not have that option.

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