Things continue to move quickly at Penn State University, as the school struggles to cope with allegations that former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky has been preying on children for years as school officials looked the other way. In a statement issued just a few hours ago, embattled head football coach Joe Paterno announced that he would retire effective at the end of this season. Here’s an excerpt:
I have decided to announce my retirement effective at the end of this season. At this moment the Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status. They have far more important matters to address. I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can.
This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.
My goals now are to keep my commitments to my players and staff and finish the season with dignity and determination. And then I will spend the rest of my life doing everything I can to help this university.
It is important to point out that Paterno has come to this decision on his own, independent of any consultation with university president Graham Spanier (who may be out of a job in a matter of hours and replaced by former Pennsylvania governor and Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge) or the school’s board of trustees.
That of course begs another question: While Paterno and his supporters might feel as if the Penn State board has other fish to fry, one has to wonder out loud how they might feel about letting Paterno continue to serve as head coach for at least another three Saturdays and again during a possible bowl game — a game that might turn out to be the Rose Bowl if Penn State wins all three of its remaining regular season games and the Big Ten title game.
Following that course of action would mean extending the scandal and nationwide media attention for nearly two more months as bloodthirsty reporters follow the Nittany Lions from Happy Valley to Columbus to Madison to Indianapolis and finally perhaps to Pasadena.
When you look at it that way, it seems clear to me that if Paterno really wanted to make things easier for his nominal bosses, he would have announced his retirement effective immediately and allowed the school to begin cleaning up this mess right now. Given the tremendous pressure the university is feeling these days — Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has now come out saying he was disappointed in the board’s lack of action — I doubt that Paterno will be allowed to coach again at Penn State.
Eric McErlain blogs at Off Wing Opinion, a Forbes “Best of the Web” winner. In 2006 he wrote a “bloggers bill of rights” to help integrate bloggers into the Washington Capitals’ press box. Eric has also written for Deadspin, NBC Sports and the Sporting News, and covers sports television for The TV News. Follow Eric on Twitter.