Paterno: ‘I didn’t know exactly how to handle it’


In the weeks since the still-stunning dismissal was made official, supporters and detractors alike have been clamoring for deposed head coach Joe Paterno to give his side of the story, to begin to explain why he took the tack he did when he was first made aware of one of his trusted former assistants allegedly sodomizing a boy in football building shower.

For the first time since being fired Nov. 9, the legendary head coach has done just that.  Somewhat.  Sorta.

In an exclusive sit-down interview with the Washington Post‘s Sally Jenkins, Paterno, with his attorney in the room, addressed a wide range of issues and questions, from the aftermath of his ouster to his treatment for lung cancer to, yes, Jerry Sandusky.

The central question, though, the one that nearly everyone has on their mind, is a simple one: why?  Why did Paterno, after turning over information he had received from a grad assistant —  Mike McQueary, the Nittany Lions quarterbacks coach who has been a central figure in the case against Sandusky — that Sandusky was naked in a shower with a 10-year-old boy in 2002, do the bare minimum as legally required by law?  Why did Paterno, the most powerful man at Penn State University regardless of title, not follow-up after handing the information over to his athletic director and president?

Nine years later, it appears Paterno is still struggling to answer those questions in his own head.

“I didn’t know exactly how to handle it and I was afraid to do something that might jeopardize what the university procedure was,” he said. “So I backed away and turned it over to some other people, people I thought would have a little more expertise than I did. It didn’t work out that way.”

Paterno went on to at least attempt to further explain to Jenkins why he didn’t pursue the matter further after handing over McQueary and his information to athletic director Tim Curley and another high-ranking university official.

Paterno’s portrait of himself is of an old-world man profoundly confused by what McQueary told him, and who was hesitant to make follow-up calls because he did not want to be seen as trying to exert any influence for or against Sandusky. “I didn’t know which way to go,” he said. “And rather than get in there and make a mistake . . .”

He reiterated that McQueary was unclear with him about the nature of what he saw — and added that even if McQueary had been more graphic, he’s not sure he would have comprehended it.

“You know, he didn’t want to get specific,” Paterno said. “And to be frank with you I don’t know that it would have done any good, because I never heard of, of, rape and a man. So I just did what I thought was best. I talked to people that I thought would be, if there was a problem, that would be following up on it.”

Paterno also hit on other topics…

  • On his firing: “Whether it’s fair I don’t know, but they do it. You would think I ran the show here.”  That statement comes courtesy of a man who, legend has it, chased Curley and then-president Graham Spanier out of his house several years ago when the two came to fire him.  he was not fired.
  • On how Sandusky was allowed to engage in his alleged deviant acts with young boys while going undetected: “I wish I knew. I don’t know the answer to that. It’s hard.”  The premise of the question is absurd, of course, as several high-ranking members of the university were made aware of allegations involving Sandusky dating as far back as 1998.
  • Paterno and his wife were in their nightclothes getting ready for bed on the night of Nov. 9 when there was a knock on the door.  On the other side of the door was a university employee bearing a piece of paper and a name on it.  Paterno dialed the number and the voice on the other end, vice trustees chairman John Surma, telling him “[i]n the best interests of the university, you are terminated.”  Paterno’s irate wife Sue called the number back. “After 61 years he deserved better. He deserved better.”
  • On why he waited until this interview, which was conducted Thursday and Friday, to speak out publicly: “I wanted everybody to settle down.”
  • Paterno said he had “no inkling” that Sandusky might be a pedophile, and described their relationship as “professional, not social” due to the fact that his former assistant “was a lot younger than me.”
  • Paterno said he told Sandusky that he couldn’t spend the time with his children’s charity — The Second Mile, which he allegedly used as a “recruiting ground” for victims — if he wanted to also become a head coach.  Paterno maintained that Sandusky retired in 1998 after being told he would not become Paterno’s successor at Penn State.  Sandusky was urged by Paterno to take the 30-year retirement package being offered by the school.
  • Paterno claims he was unaware of an incident in 1998 in which Sandusky allegedly molested a boy in a shower.  Curley as well as police were aware of the incident, and it was investigated before it was decided charges would not be pursued.  “You know it wasn’t like it was something everybody in the building knew about,” Paterno said of the 1998 incident. “Nobody knew about it.”
  • Paterno would not pass judgment on Sandusky’s guilt or innocence. “I think we got to wait and see what happens. The courts are taking care of it, the legal system is taking care of it.” If Sandusky is found guilty?  “I’m sick about it.”

Other than being his first post-firing interview, Jenkins’ exceptionally written piece did not, as somewhat expected, plow much new ground.  Perhaps the most fascinating — and sad on multiple levels — aspect of the interview was the conversation turning to the victims of Sandusky’s alleged sexual abuse and Paterno and his wife personalizing it into what their reactions would’ve been if it had involved a member of their own family.

The Paternos say they think about the real potential victims every time they look at their own children. “I got three boys and two girls,” Paterno said. “It’s sickening.” His knee-jerk response is to go back to Flatbush. “Violence is not the way to handle it,” he said. “But for me, I’d get a bunch of guys and say let’s go punch somebody in the nose.” Sue Paterno is more blunt. “If someone touched my child, there wouldn’t be a trial, I would have killed them,” she said. “That would be my attitude, because you have destroyed someone for life.”

In other words, if Paterno had received the same information he did in 2002, but “10-year-old boy” was replaced with “great-grandson”, jeopardizing university procedures would have been the last thing on the former coach’s mind and someone would have paid for whatever happened in that on-campus shower.  Instead, the bare minimum was done for somebody’s else’s child.

It has been stated multiple times in the past couple of months that Paterno has been wanting to get his side of the story out, that he wanted to address the situation in his own words.  To some degree, he did just that, although if someone were a supporter or a detractor coming in, that’s likely where they still stand upon finishing the interview.

For me, it merely served as yet another reminder of how sad and disturbing and disgusting this whole sordid situation remains.  And how it could’ve been stopped in 2002, sparing several innocent victims from the actions of an alleged pedophile.

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Harbaugh hits primetime again as Michigan announces spring game under the lights

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Jim Harbaugh is already getting a series on Amazon Prime but now the Michigan head coach is also getting the primetime treatment.

The Wolverines announced on Tuesday that the annual spring game would take place under the lights at Michigan Stadium this year and would be televised live in primetime on the Big Ten Network.

Gates will open to the game two hours prior to kickoff and the maize and blue faithful may try to do their best to get to Ann Arbor early because the school is going to screen an episode of the Amazon series  “All or Nothing: The Michigan Wolverines” prior to the game. This will be the second time in three years that the school will go under the lights to play their spring game at night but obviously the first time there’s a documentary series that will be screened prior to the Wolverines taking the field.

The game may be worth tuning in for to see Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson in action with his new team after arriving in the offseason. The NCAA still has not ruled on whether he will be immediately eligible in 2018 but he is expected to go through spring drills with the team either way, starting this week when practices begin on Friday.

After cutting four sports, Eastern Michigan says axing football is not “even an option”

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Prior to the arrival of current head coach Chris Creighton, Eastern Michigan football was annually one of the programs people wondered about at the FBS level due to low attendance, bad records and a gray field being one of the few notable aspects about the program. After all, the Eagles have won just one MAC title in the decades they’ve been in the league and went to only their second ever bowl game back in 2016.

While the fortunes of the team have become more positive in recent seasons, the topic of cutting football altogether or dropping down to the FCS ranks was brought up again in Ypsilanti this week after the school made the decision to cut four sports from the athletic department for budgetary reasons. While some might think EMU could continue slashing and eventually reach the football team, it appears that is thankfully not on the table.

“Football is not being cut,” said athletic director Scott Wetherbee, according to “No. 1, because I had a directive from our board of regents and the president, and we all agree we want to stay in the Mid-American Conference and we want to be a FBS Division I football team.

“It wasn’t even an option to look at that.”

That should settle that.

Wetherbee went on to said that the school receives several million dollars from just being a member of the MAC and having a football team is certainly a key part in remaining in the league. Money is a touchy subject around the university when it comes to athletics as just last year Eastern Michigan students campaigned against a $35 million football facility.

Despite the opposition and the most recent budget cuts though, it seems the school’s leadership is firmly behind Creighton and the Eagles remaining a part of life at EMU.

Former USC assistant coach wants to depose Mark Emmert as part of lawsuit against NCAA

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March Madness may not be the only thing on NCAA president Mark Emmert’s mind this week.

According to the LA Times, attorneys for former USC assistant coach Todd McNair are asking a judge to order Emmert to take part in a deposition with them prior to the start of the long-running legal case involving the association next month. The NCAA president had been scheduled to be deposed in February in Indianapolis but the session never appeared to come about.

“We suspect you are seeking it in order to harass President Emmert and place undue settlement pressure on the NCAA,” Kosta Stojilkovic, an attorney representing the organization, wrote in an email obtained by the Times.

McNair was a former running backs coach at USC and was one of the key links the NCAA used to levy heavy sanctions against the Trojans in the Reggie Bush infractions case nearly eight years ago. However McNair subsequently sued the NCAA not long after he was let go by the university, claiming that his career was ruined as a result of the case.

Documents that have slowly been released as part of the lawsuit have shown the Committee on Infractions did stray from protocol in the case in order to punish USC and after years of appeals, it seems McNair is finally getting his day in court not far from the campus where he once coached at. It remains to be seen if the most recent legal maneuvering on both sides will result in Emmert becoming part of the trial but, billable hours appears as though they will remain undefeated as both the NCAA and McNair redefine the motto ‘Fight On.’

College GameDay joins ESPN’s coverage of 2018 NFL Draft

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Not so fast NFL friends, College GameDay is crashing the party.

ESPN and the NFL league office announced on Wednesday that Kirk Herbstreit and the rest of the GameDay gang will be heading to Texas to cover the 2018 NFL Draft for the first time ever. While we’ve seen the crew setup shop for big games before at AT&T Stadium, this broadcast will be a little different with the excitement from fans coming about players leaving college.

“ESPN has presented the NFL Draft for nearly 40 years and we take great pride in finding new and exciting ways to continue to elevate and differentiate our coverage,” ESPN Executive Vice President Burke Magnus said in a statement. “The draft is the perfect intersection of college football and the NFL, so giving fans the opportunity to experience Round 1 through the lens of College GameDay makes perfect sense.”


The team should have plenty to discuss next month in Dallas between presumptive No. 1 overall pick Sam Darnold and human highlight reel Saquon Barkley out of Penn State likely going atop the draft. If you’re annoyed at some of the NFL analysts who are dropping analysis that doesn’t quite lineup with what you’ve seen on the gridiron the past few years in college, this is certainly a nice new option to have when it comes to the opening night of the draft.