As the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal at Penn State quickly roiled to a boil, Bobby Bowden was asked by that school’s student newspaper about the controversy that had ensnared his long-time friend in its far-reaching clutches. Calling Joe Paterno ” a wise man”, the former Florida State head coach said he’d withhold judgment until additional information surfaced.
“I just hate it,” Bowden told the Daily Collegian early in the week. “Whatever happens, I don’t think I’m going to like. I just have to wait to see what’s going to happen.”
Three days after his coaching contemporary’s firing, Bowden opened up and, in somewhat of a mild surprise, was critical of the former Nittany Lion head coach. Speaking at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes luncheon Saturday, Bowden used the word “negligent” when talking about his feelings for the situation that’s unfolding in State College, particularly as it relates to Paterno’s role.
“It’s sad what happened at Penn State,’’ Bowden told the Albany Herald in his first public comments since Paterno’s firing Wednesday. “Joe was a little negligent. …
“It’s a shocking story. The worst thing is what the guy did to those boys, then the second thing is the fact that Penn State kept it quiet. They could have stopped it, about eight years of it, or nine years of it. Now you had eight, nine years. There’s no telling how many kids were affected after that.”
Paterno and other Penn State officials have come under fire for their handling of information that may have prevented additional children from being victimized by Sandusky, who was indicted last week on 40 counts relating to the sexual abuse of children. According to the grand jury presentment in Sandusky’s indictment, the former Nittany Lions defensive coordinator was witnessed by a then-grad assistant — Mike McQueary, who is currently on administrative leave — sodomizing a 10-year-old boy in the shower of the football program’s building. In part because of how that information was handled, Paterno and president Graham Spanier were fired, and athletic director Tim Curley, who was charged with two counts related to the scandal, is likely next on the firing line.
There were some who questioned or were highly critical of Paterno’s firing, stating rather vociferously that the coaching legend should’ve been permitted to finish out the season before retiring. Bowden, again surprisingly, is not one of those people.
“No, I wouldn’t say that,’’ Bowden said when asked if he was bothered by how Paterno’s firing was handled. “The thing is … How much did he know? I don’t know. Just listening to him talk, he must have known more than he should have said. Because he said [when he announced his retirement shortly before his firing], ‘I wish I would have done more.’ …
“I know this, there’s no nice way to dismiss somebody. That’s not what upsets me. What happened to those young boys is what upsets me. It shouldn’t have happened because somebody didn’t report it. They could have cut it out eight or nine years ago.”
Bowden and Paterno were each elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006, and spent a portion of the latter part of their careers passing each other for the career record in wins. Despite the fact that the two are “pretty doggone close” as Bowden put it, the ex-coach and cancer survivor said he hasn’t talked to Paterno and has no plans to for the foreseeable future, in large part because he wouldn’t know what to say to him.
If it’s anything like what he said publicly, we’re guessing JoePa wouldn’t really want to hear it from him right now anyway.