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Last night it was announced by CBS News that Joe Paterno had passed away. After setting the internet world on fire, it was later announced that he was not dead.
This morning, it was again announced that Joe Paterno had died, but this was no false alarm. Shortly after being fired from Penn State in relation to the Jerry Sandusky scandal, it was announced that he had cancer. In the matter of a few months, he passed away.
If Paterno had died 4 or 5 months ago instead of today, headlines would announce be calling him a leader of young men, legend, beloved coach. The headlines today instead portray a picture of a very different man. The news outlets lead with words like tragedy and fired.
If you are a Penn State fan, you are mourning not only a coach, but a true life legend for the University. The man was as synonymous with Penn State as the Nittany Lion itself. If you are not from Penn State, it gets more complicated.
There is no argument regarding Paterno's devotion to Penn State and his contributions to college football. He has had significant contributions to the University and community as well.
He legacy will always be marked with an asterisk. In every story about him there will be a paragraph pointing out the scandal that ultimately got him fired. His name will forever be linked to Jerry Sandusky, a coach under his charge that has been charged with 40 counts of sexual abuse. For a man that prided himself on encouraging his players to make the ethical, moral choices, he is linked to one of the worst moral failings. Word of the abuse was reported to him, he reported it and then dropped it. He never followed up, he never questioned it.
Is that right? Is it wrong?
That will be debated for years to come.
But right or wrong, Paterno's legacy is forever linked with tragedy, and no amount of wins or championships can change that.