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Penn State — the University — Doesn’t Seem to Get it When It Comes to JoePa

Joe Paterno and Penn State — the person and the university will be forever synonymous with each other. There’s no way to deny all the good he did for the university, but there is also no way around the hurt and controversy that his name also brings up.

As Penn State readies for its celebration of the first Penn State team under Paterno this afternoon, there’s little to be said on the subject of Paterno and the athletics department that hasn’t already been said. Whatever your thoughts on Paterno’s involvement or lack thereof in the Jerry Sandusky scandal, I think we can all agree that while court proceedings and little kids are still being traumatized by Sandusky, honoring Paterno in any way is just tone-deaf at the very least.

However, there seems to be a bigger problem afoot in State College, and that the culture within the academic halls of the university really hasn’t changed in the five years since all of this began to break. How else do explain a Public Relations professor and his Twitter rant on the eve of Paterno’s first team being honored?

It all started with this now deleted (but never fully gone tweet):

Let’s just say the reaction has been swift and brutal….

Lest you think the first tweet we showed was his only hit…there was this now deleted dandy picked up by Deadspin:

Paterno arguably did more for Penn State than any other coach at any other school in history. Yet he is vilified by some, who know nothing.

While there’s little arguing that Penn State’s academic life has been greatly affected by the generosity of the Paterno family over the years…one could also argue that he did more to sully the reputation of the athletic department and the university than anyone else ever…at any school.

Also, that claim that those who vilify him know nothing is preposterous. Plenty of those people have studied the reports and allegations and have made up their minds one way or the other. You know how all of this could’ve been avoided?

By Paterno immediately going to the police when notified of potential child sex abuse happening right in his football facility. Not by going up the chain of command at PSU first and never caring about the allegations again.

Plain and simple, Paterno failed and that failure some 15 years ago is what got us here today. Instead of 15 years to heal and then honor him for football accomplishments…the wounds haven’t even had a chance to heal for all the victims.

Yet, some within the culture of Penn State’s academic community still are brainwashed enough to defend the man?

Then again, isn’t it laughable that the athletic department has spun the honoring of Paterno himself into some farce about honoring the players of that team? No one really buys that this isn’t the PSU athletic department floating up a trial balloon in the inevitable Paterno love-fest to come, right?

The only reason this isn’t a full-on celebration of Paterno himself is because of the backlash that the PSU athletic department got following its announcement for this celebration in the first place. Suddenly the focus is on the players and not Paterno? How convenient.

The fact that a PR and crisis management professor was the one tweeting out shows just how deep Paterno’s influence had become on campus. Until those in powerful positions stop caring so much about what the internal community believes, get the reality of what happened and are honest about the affects on the outside world…it’s simply the same old Penn State once again.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball


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