Cook: Penn State, tear down that Paterno statue

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So a member of the Penn State board of trustees has been quoted as saying about the Joe Paterno statue at Beaver Stadium, "The statue represents the good that Joe did. It doesn't represent the bad that he did."

Wrong.

The statue represents the evil that was within Paterno. It was built because of the Penn State football empire that he constructed, an empire that he allowed to careen dangerously out of control as he was being made into an iconic figure and campus deity. "Success With Honor" is how they once described it. "The Paterno Way."

Now, we know better.

Paterno and other Penn State leaders decided it was better to protect the football program than it was to protect the young boys molested by convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky, his long-time defensive coordinator. For Paterno, it wasn't so much about 324 wins, which broke Bear Bryant's major-college record, or 400 wins, or even his final total of 409 wins, which broke Eddie Robinson's record and made Paterno Division I's all-time winningest coach. It wasn't even about greed, although that can't be said for president Graham Spanier, senior vice president Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley. For Paterno, it was all about ego and power.

EDUCATOR. COACH. HUMANITARIAN.

Those are the words on the wall next to the Paterno statue. If the board of trustees is going to allow the statue to stand, its members need to get out a chisel and make a few revisions.

ENABLER. PEDOPHILE PROTECTOR. LIAR.

Tear the damn thing down.

A trustee, quoted by ESPN.com earlier here, had it wrong. The Paterno Library represents the good that Paterno did. Make no mistake, he had plenty of good inside him. He and his wife, Sue, donated more than $4 million to Penn State, a significant portion going to fund the library. "Without a great library, you can't have a great university," Paterno always said. He made Penn State a great institution by raising millions to endow scholarships and faculty positions.

It should stay the Paterno Library forever.

It's funny, though, not many people seem to be talking about the Penn State library. It's all about football. Too few seem to care about the roles played by Spanier, Schultz and Curley in the Sandusky cover-up. It's all about Paterno.

The knee-jerk reactionists have called for the NCAA or Penn State to shut down the football program. What they fail to realize is the harm that would do, not just to the current players who had nothing to do with the Sandusky scandal, but to the businesses in the Penn State campus area, to the entire regional economy. That is much worse than any good that would come by sending a message that -- how do the death-penalty proponents put it -- "the football program no longer is going to be bigger than the university."

Paterno is dead and gone, buried in shame. Spanier, Schultz and Curley soon could be going to prison. The board of trustees has to deal with possibly paying millions to settle civil lawsuits.

Clearly, the Penn State football program has been put in its place.

But the job isn't quite done.

The Paterno statue must go.

"We don't want to further upset the alumni," one trustee told ESPN.com, arguing why the statue should stay.

That's ridiculous, isn't it? Sometimes, the right decision isn't the popular decision. Who cares about upsetting the alumni? It was the fear of bad publicity and what it would do to the money-making football program that led Paterno and the others to conceal a convicted child molester for more than a decade.

Beyond that, it's fair to think Paterno has very few supporters left after the release Thursday of the Freeh Report. Powerful Nike founder Phil Knight might have been Paterno's greatest loyalist, preaching at his funeral in January that everyone but Paterno was responsible for Sandusky's reign of terror. Not long after the Freeh Report came out implicating Paterno in a big way in the cover-up, Nike pulled Paterno's name off its child development center.

Why is the board so afraid of doing the right thing with the statue?

According to an ESPN.com source, it's because the trustees "are hoping they can have more time pass and people will forget about it and then [the statue] won't come down."

Wrong.

People are never going to forget.

roncook

Ron Cook: rcook@post-gazette.com. Ron Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" show weekdays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan.


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