The entire world, whether affiliated with sports or not has certainly heard something in the past few months about the events that transpired in State College, Pennsylvania. Home to a football powerhouse with decades of experience on their coaching staff, the Penn State Nittany Lions football program has been in total upheaval since the leak of Jerry Sandusky’s sex abuse scandal.
Acting as assistant coach to the legendary Joe Paterno for 31 seasons, Sandusky was charged with sexually assaulting and inappropriately contacting at least eight underage boys on or near university property. Sandusky, who still maintained an office in State College, was asked to leave the premises immediately following reports. Following his trial, the Grand Jury found over 40 counts of sexual molestation by Sandusky, as his full trial will be held in the near future.
Assuming the allegations are true, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Sandusky is guilty of many felonies and is a moral failure. However, there are other members of the staff who were extremely impacted by the actions of Jerry Sandusky. Joe Paterno, a sports legend and the biggest icon of Penn State, was fired as head football coach just one day after the allegations were presented, a job that he held for the past 45 years. To the public eye, some felt it was ridiculous that Paterno was fired because he was no part in the scandal and was being punished for the actions of another man. However, it was reported that Paterno had knowledge of Sandusky’s actions years before allegations were presented and only spoke a word to it to his immediate superior, athletic director Tim Curley which made others feel that Paterno was rightfully fired. Should Paterno have gone behind one of his closest friends and colleagues back and reported Sandusky’s actions to higher authorities? Or was Paterno’s decision to keep his knowledge to himself justified by his relationship with Sandusky. As Joe Pa has learned the hard way, he was getting his hands dirty either way.
Paterno certainly had the chances to completely stop Sandusky by reporting him to the police because he was well aware of Sandusky’s illegal habits years before he was finally convicted. However, in Paterno’s eyes, he saw a man with a problem, a man who he has taught for over 30 years and felt that he would be able to step in and help Sandusky and ultimately stop him from committing wrong. Paterno felt that he reported what he found to his superior and it was up to the athletic director to determine what steps would be taken from that point. However, Paterno certainly got his hands dirty in that by protecting Sandusky, the lives of the children that Sandusky allegedly molested are ruined more than one can explain. He unintentionally allowed Sandusky to continue his child molestation. At the same time, by reporting Sandusky’s actions to the authorities, Paterno would have ruined a 30 year relationship with one of his closest colleagues as well as put the Penn State football name to shambles, as it remains presently.
This scandal, while it is made up of dozens of different themes and opinions certainly does show how Dirty Hands are such a vital part of politics. With any decision that a leader makes, there are two sides to each decision and essentially every decision made will be seen as wrong by the side that does not gain. No matter what Paterno did, he was getting his hands dirty by committing a moral wrong, whether that was between his friendship with his friend that he would have been personally responsible for sending to jail, or towards the 42 victims that were molested by Sandusky, a number that could have been much smaller had Paterno or Tim Curley reported what they knew to the authorities the moment the information was presented to them.