Harris: Paterno Support Reveals Larger Issue In College Football

By Adam Harris-

(CBS) Joe Paterno’s drawn out funeral services this past week opened my eyes to the blind and ignorant support fans have for their college football programs across America.

Penn State fans lined up by the thousands to pay respect to a man that simply coached college football players, and more importantly, students. While I agree that Paterno’s legacy will live on the field, his off the field legacy is tarnished because of his decision to ignore the moral book and only report to his immediate supervisors his knowledge of his one time defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky’s, alleged child-sex scandal.

I have witnessed, listened to, and tried to understand the Penn State faithful, and Joe Paterno supporters, who continue to say that Paterno is unfairly criticized for how he handled this scandal. This belief is wrong, and it leads me to believe that college athletics have a lot more problems than money laundering, bribing players, and illegal recruiting.

The people who continue to ignore Paterno’s major lack of moral judgment are my “exhibit A” in what is wrong in college athletics. These people were brainwashed, either as kids growing up, or when they became fans of their favorite college team later on.

College is thought of as a “pure” idea. Students go there to learn and become adults and have some fun during their journey. The players play for the “love of the game” and the head coaches not only teach them how to win on the field, but also how to win in life.

Yea, right.

All this tells me is that a college campus is a perfect hiding spot for scandal and law breaking. The Penn State child-sex abuse scandal wouldn’t last one day on the professional level, but on a college
campus there is blind support for the people who have the power to make successful programs.

In some cities, following a certain college team is like being a part of a cult. These followings can be found in college towns where the university is the reason the town survives. From birth, kids are
raised in these “University Towns” to love their university no matter what. Loyalty to the school is the end-all, be-all.

A cult is defined as: an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, especially as manifested by a body of admirers.

That definition describes college athletics in many places, and Penn State is the extreme of this. Joe Paterno followed the correct legal action when dealing with the allegations he heard against Jerry Sandusky, and that was enough for most of the Penn State/Joe Paterno fans out there.

The reason these people feel that Paterno owed no more to those kids than simply alerting his supervisors, is because these fans in Happy Valley are brainwashed. They are brainwashed by the image of “Penn State” and what Joe Paterno did for the school.

“He gave full disclosure to his superiors,” Nike Chairman Phil Knight said at Joe Paterno’s memorial service Thursday. “The matter was in the hands of a world class university, and by a president with an outstanding reputation. Whatever the details in the investigation are, this much is clear to me: if there is a villain in this tragedy, it lies in that investigation, not in Joe Paterno’s response to it.”

After this statement, the twelve thousand on hand applauded in support. The reason for this applause is because these people feel a “cult like” connection to “their” Penn State.

This blind and completely loyal following is seen at many other colleges across the country: Alabama Football, Auburn Football, Kentucky Basketball, Kansas Basketball, Oklahoma Football, and Notre Dame, just to name a few. Some of these fans think loyalty to their school is bigger than the law itself.

The small town image of all these places, where the univeristy is what the state and area relies on, worries me. It creeps me out.

Penn State was an extreme situation that I hope isn’t duplicated in these other places I named, but the way it was covered up, and the way the fans of Penn State reacted lead me to question: where else could lives be in danger? Where else in the country can a scandal this big be hidden for years?

Where else is Penn State?

Adam Harris is the Update Anchor and Executive Producer for The Les Grobstein Show 12am-5am Monday through Friday. You can follow Adam @AHARRIS670

More from Adam Harris
  • Johnny Minion

    Everywhere. Too many are Born To Follow.

  • Mike M

    It is clear that there is a lot that you don’t understand about Joe Paterno or Penn State. It would have been better if you had gotten that understanding first before trying to write about it.

    • The Dry Aged Remains Of Gerald R. Ford

      Yep, you’re brainwashed. When confronted by people like you I only have to ask one question and wait to hear the crickets.

      What if it were your kid Sandusky raped and Paterno did what he did? What…would…your…reaction…be…then?


    • Mr. Mouth

      I agree, the author’s soft-pedaling the magnitude of Penn State’s crimes reflects a truly revolting lack of understanding! This is, after all, a cult that is supposed enable the exploitation of young athletes and misappropriation public educational resources, not protect serial child-rape rings! Does anyone have any idea how bad that is?

  • TB

    I have no problem with anyone celebrating the on the field accomplishments of Joe Paterno. Why am I not seeing the anger directed towards the student assistant that allegedly witnessed this going on or did he? The story keeps changing. He said he went to the police and they have no record of that. What did he do to stop this monster?

    • Denver Deadite

      Not enough, and he has taken plenty of grief as well. Perhaps not as much recently, but he certainly did early on. In the end, McQueary will get his as well.

      But the fact remains that Paterno was the head honcho.

      • TonyStark

        Don’t forget Paterno’s superiors could have and should have done more, not to mention campus police should have done more, plus law enforcement should have done more as well.

        I don’t know what Pennsylvania law is regarding teachers and whatnot, but if Paterno couldn’t do more from a legal standpoint than to report the incident to his superiors, then legally he did all he could do. That’s not to say he couldn’t have done more from a moral standpoint, he could have but didn’t. But from a legal standpoint, if he tried to do more, he would have been acting illegally and would have been investigated himself.

        It’s funny how Sandusky managed to stay under the radar while Paterno was raked over the coals over what Sandusky did to the children, but since Paterno’s dead now, he can’t hide anymore.

  • roger

    Great article!! Thats right just a football coach who placed his program above the lives of children. What did those kids learn at the great Penn State?

  • Dave

    Adam, you are the one who is guilty of blindly following the crowd with your uninformed opinions. When I attended Penn State and in the many years that have followed I have always respond loudly the challenge “We Are” with a loud “Penn State”. I didn’t see Joe Paterno every time I yelled. I saw something much larger and more important. It is not about football. It is about a drive for excellence in everything that you do. Appreciation for someone who instills that drive in you does not a cult make. As an aside, you should strive a little harder for excellence in your writing.
    Mark Wahlberg recently said that if he had been on one of the 9/11 planes, things would have been different. He was soundly criticized for that. You are guilty of the same bravado. You have the luxury of knowing the totality of the Grand Jury report just as Mark knew the result of the 9/11 hijackings. Knowing only what Joe knew in 2002 I don’t believe you can honestly say you would have handled it any differently. He had a faith in the system that we now know was not justified but no one knew it then, including Joe. He did no wrong! The 16,000 (there were 12,000 public tickets) who rose at Knight’s comments were acknowledging that. They were there to celebrate a remarkable life and yes to express admiration for a true hero…not a god or cult leader but an exceptionally good man.

    • Mr. Mouth

      How about demanding excellence in reporting repeated child rape? How about pursuing excellence in uncovering the truth about said child rape and its attendant coverup, then appropriately punishing the guilty? Or in not rioting over the quasi-firing of a demented amateur sports figurehead who obviously covered up claims of very hideous crimes, claims which were in all probability true?

      The claim that Paterno did nothing wrong or required extraordinary foresight to act otherwise is risible. Even considering only the one incident about which we have some clarity, if one person at your work says he saw a co-worker literally raping a child on the premises, and then you’re still on friendly terms with both years later, you’ve done something drastically wrong ipso facto – either the accuser has leveled a very serious false claim, or your work is employing a child rapist. Every reasonable person knows that. Every Nittany Lion cultist probably knows it, too, somewhere deep down. I hope you can reconnect with that basic and obvious moral truth some day.

      • Denver Deadite

        “Your anger at Joe is misplaced.”

        And your hero worship of Paterno is not only misplaced, but downright dangerous.

        At no point have any of you thought of the children. And neither did Paterno.

      • Dave

        Deadnite, You are dangerous with your un-American lynch mob mentality. You speak of “children” but Joe could not have possibly thought of children since he only knew of possibly one child. Joe had no standing to accuse as his knowledge was hearsay and incomplete. So get your friends together, light your torches and grab your pitch forks. I’ll be the marshal standing on the porch to stop you, protecting the innocent and allowing due process for the guilty.

      • Time To Move On

        Dave, I have two children. If one of them had been molested and I found out a powerful person could have, in their own words, done more, I’d want them to pay. The more I think about this the madder I get. Joe got off easy by dying. Gather those 12,000 at Joe’s funeral (and Phil Knight) and hold a vigil for those boys.

      • Dave

        Time to Move On – Your anger at Joe is misplaced. I saw Joe frequently but only spent a few minutes one-on-one with Joe on two separate occasions but those minutes changed my life. Again you choose to ignore what Joe knew. Sandusky was known for his charity work with kids so sponsoring a kid at a game etc was not seen as strange not just by Joe but by hundreds of people including trained professionals like social workers. All Joe knew for sure was that on one occasion Sandusky was in a shower with one boy. This was in an environment where males took communal showers every day. He reported that to the proper authorities and had the eye witness testify to authorities. Joe said he could have done more when he had the knowledge that you have now about Sandusky. Knowing what he did then you expect too much. You expect more from him than the parents, than the kid’s school officials than the charity officials and the professionals like the social workers. This isn’t a matter of being too close to Penn State…you are the one acting like Joe was God and should have had perfect knowledge. He wasn’t God and he did exactly what an honest man would have done given what he knew at the time. Get off your high horse and stop pretending you are a better person that Joe was…you are NOT.

      • Time To Move On

        This comment is for Dave. Just because you went to Penn State does not mean you knew Joe Paterno. I can understand how it’s difficult to separate the good man who did so much for so many and the Joe Paterno who failed those abused boys. Clearly, Joe is loved and for good reason. But Mr. Mouths concerns are justified.

        Some who went to Penn State are too close to the situation to weigh in objectively. Joe Paterno’s simply reporting what happened to his superiors was not enough. Joe was not only the most powerful person at Happy Valley but he was one of the most influential people in the state. He had the ear and respect of every difference maker in Pennsylvania.

        Can you not see that it was his failure to go beyond the perfunctory reporting of what he knew? He said he could have done more. Damn right. He could have blown the whistle on Jerry Sandusky and kept him off Penn State’s campus. Do you really think Joe didn’t know what was going on? Joe was Penn State. He knew. That’s what people are upset about. Joe did not commit those hideous crimes but he could have stopped some of them.

        If you have to celebrate his life, do it quietly and have some respect for the victims.

      • MW


        I respect Joe Paterno as a coach, a man, a father, and an ambassador for Penn State. That being said, when it comes to this isolated incident Joe did not do enough. Boys would travel with Sandusky, stay in his hotel rooms without his wife to the Alamo Bowl for goodness sake! Granted, Joe had other things on his mind, if your defensive coordinator was bringing around young boys not related to him to team dinners wouldn’t you raise an eyebrow? I worked for another Big Ten school as a team manager and the limited amount of time I was around the coaches, I would seriously question why any coach had kids around them other than their own. Not to say Joe is entirely responsible as others could have stepped up to be the hero to save these innocent boys, but he is the in charge, the one responsible for all that goes on within HIS football program. I do not think people should hate Joe Pa, because he did tremendously more good than the bad in this scandal, but c’mon, how can you logically say Joe Paterno did all that he could?

      • Dave

        Repeated child rape? This is the bravado I spoke of. What did Joe know? He knew that Sandusky was showering with a child. McQuery even now can’t say he saw a rape. Cover up? Since when do you cover something up by reporting it? A cover up would have been telling McQuery to keep quiet. The ironic thing is that a cover up would have worked. It is only because he did the right thing that Joe is being vilified by the likes of you. All you need to know is that proud middle finger that is raised to you and your kind has a big Nike swoosh on it. The funny thing is that Phil Knight, the strongest defender of Joe yesterday, went to Oregon and not Penn State.

      • Dave

        I had to add to my earlier reply: With regard to your “ipso facto” argument, it might help to get your factos straight. McQuery never told Joe he witnessed a rape, never told anyone that in fact, even the grand jury. Joe knew for sure that one boy was seen showering with Sandusky one time and that McQuery was uncomfortable with what he saw and was honestly reporting that. McQuery could not be faulted for reporting something he honestly believed to be wrong even if it were proved otherwise later. Since Sandusky was never charged, it could also be reasonable to assume that after investigation, McQuery had misinterpreted what he saw. That would not preclude being cordial to either. Again all of this has to be seen through the lens of what was known then, not what is known now. Lastly, Joe didn’t have a friendly relationship with Sandusky. Mr. Mouth, it is better to sit quietly and be thought a fool than to hit the keyboard and confirm it…get your facts straight next time

    • Time To Move On

      Dave, I just had an opinion about Joe. I’m mad about his role in this. You’re not. I disagree with you that Joe did no wrong. I think that’s naive. I certainly never said I was better than Joe. Those are your words. Your selective reading missed this from my first reply, “Clearly, Joe is loved and for good reason.” I’m not doubting he did good in life and impacted countless lives ina positive way. I just wanted him to do more concerning the molestations. This is what I was talking about in my second reply, the anger that I felt.

      This actually has been a fairly thoughtful exchange for a message board posting. We disagree and that’s OK. Now, it really is time to move on. I hope you are well.


    The former players, students and random people that interacted with Joe and explained his impact on their life weren’t brainwashed you idiot. Dan Bernstein has dozens of moronic drunk idiots that follow his every tweet to play crossword and hear what he had for dinner. That’s a cult because they do not and have not had actual personal interaction with him. The people that spoke about Paterno know him and have interacted with him for years. No matter what his failing in the Sandusky matter nothing can change the impact he had positively on their lives. Pedophiles are monsters saying they are enabled relieves them of blame. Also Paterno could have done more but frankly the victim he knew about to this day has not been identified no one knows wether further action on Paterno’s part would have stopped Sandusky any more than the 98 investigation did. Your entire premise is based on assumptions you are making up in your mind not on facts.

  • Bob

    You should go on Notre Dame message boards if you think ND fans are blindingly loyal. What you’ll see is the exact opposition. The truth lies somewhere in between.

  • Judy Botwin

    The ignorance surrounding this case is amazing. The person responsible for calling the police was the witness, For someone else to report it constitutes hearsay. And police are not going to treat the case the same way. The facet is that the campus police did know about it, and what did they do? Further, the the campus police are under the control of the university and very likely so are the community police to a large extent. Paterno has become a scapegoat. The real culprits are large universities who make millions from football, which supports other programs. The university trustees would have been horrified by any bad publicity and these institutions want no bad publicity. They routinely conceal cases of young women who are raped by other students. But the main perspective is that university employees are intimidated from doing anything that will bring bad publicity to the university and they fear for the jobs at the least. They might even fear that they could never get another job in that town or in any other university for that matter. Finally, the whole system is one that exploits players and coaches both under the guise of amateur sports. The trustees created the atmosphere to allow this incident to unfold the way it did, lacked the decency to even communicate directly with Paterno, and have received no criticism until yesterday. It is sports writers who lace the wisdom and maturity to evaluate matters, not the general public.

    • JusticeForAll

      Judy, you hit the nail on the head. If the authorities or the Grand Jury felt Joe Paterno were in any way, shape or form responsible for not correctly reporting the incident or hiding any part of the incident, he would have been iindicted as well. The Police Chief who made the original comment should be asked to resign for starting all this. As for the trustees, they handled the situation based on instant emotions without doing their own investigating. Mr. Paterno did what he was supposed to do in the situation with the information he was given by Mr. McQueary. He reported it to his superior and to campus security. Unfortunately, for the last few years the media has been reeling out of control and instead of reporting the news, now editorializes it. If I want an opinion, I”ll read an editorial page, otherwise, I want plain old facts.

    • Dave

      Judy..great points! Just one clarification: The State College police have no jurisdiction in University Park. The University police force is not a group of rent-a-cops but a fully functional police force with full jurisdiction.

    • TonyStark

      I couldn’t have put it better myself. Unfortunately some media people don’t want to let facts get in the way of a good story, and that’s what happened in this case.

  • Jake

    defend Paterno = support child rape

    • Dave

      Jake, I am trying to fathom the logic by which you derived your equation. You are clearly not an American because your logic would require that no defendant receive legal council. The attorney for a murder suspect defends that suspect without defending the crime of murder. I am not even sure that an Iranian would believe your equation so please tell me what backward country are you from? And my advice to you is don’t initiate a battle of wits again…you are unarmed.

    • JusticeForAll

      Jake, you’re basically a Jacka$$.

  • Sal M. Chereso

    Well written article, BUT totally factless , opinionated, presumtious. Until all the facts of this sorid story are known…. don’t indict all of college sports programs, all university leaders, all campus suppoters, and the true purity of most student athletes. The rancor of some of the blinded media has taken on the image of a ‘mob’ action. When do the uninformed media feel they are Judge and Jury on social issues. As Dave said GET YOUR FACTS RIGHT, and look at the whole picture of what happened at Penn State, Isn’t there someone named Sandusky involved ?

  • BV

    It seems a lot of people on this message board are overlooking the simple truth that what is morally and ethically right, is not always required by law. To defend Paterno’s actions, or lack thereof, because he “did what he was supposed to do” is as naive as it gets. Does it bother anyone else that there are people in this world that make comments like Dave, above, “Joe knew for sure that one boy was seen showering with Sandusky one time”? What part of that sentence sounds ok to you??? Because it was only one time does that make it forgivable? Since when is it an acceptable act to be in a shower naked with a child as a 60 year old man? I mean, come on. Use your head. This is exactly what the author is talking about when he speaks of a cult-like following; people tossing aside ethical and moral laws to lean on anything they can in an attempt to defend unspeakable actions like those committed by everyone involved in this scandal at Penn State.

    • Afro

      Bravo BV would these people wouldn’t be defending this cult if it were their child being molested and Paturno did nothing about it? and yes he did nothing because nothing was the result!

  • Fltre

    You haters should have joined Westboro Baptist protesting on Thursday. You are all cut from the same cloth. Facts don’t matter to you…just your own sick uninformed opinions. The bottom line is that all your hate comes to nothing because as Jay Paterno said, Joe left this world with a clear conscience. All your wailing and moaning and gnashing of teeth can’t change that now…you are full of sound and fury signifying nothing. Polls also say your kind has become the minority. The more people know the more they understand Paterno wasn’t the villain.

  • The Dry Aged Remains Of Gerald R. Ford


    I am just going to sit back and wait for when the Feds roll into Happy Valley and start dropping indictments regarding violations of the Mann Act-transportation of people across state lines for sexual activities-what Sandusky did in the Alamo Bowl incident. And they’ll start sniffing around the finanaces of Second Mile and, as they said in ‘All The President’s Men’-follow the money. Because when the Feds roll in they usually dig a little deeper than the locals. And I think there are some local and state officials who are very nervous right now….and once the Feds start digging I think some much more ugly stuff is going to come out.

    So all you Penn State sycophants, keep running those mouths, I’m just going to sit back and listen and smile waiting for the day the Feds drop a very big hammer on State College, Centre County and the State of Pennsylvania.


  • Some Penn State Kid

    Wow! I am so happy to have read this article. I am currently a Penn State student and I have been witnessing all of the events for Joe Pa and honestly I don’t get it. Everyone on campus praises this man as if he were Jesus. I was really upset the other day after his memorial service when I went to a club meeting where they discussed Joe Pa’s legacy and all of the students said that people who criticize PSU about their overwhelming support of Joe Pa are just ignorant and don’t understand the “PSU culture”. I thought that was greatest bunch of bull I ever heard. Being around these people is like being around a bunch of trained monkeys. They completely lack individual thought and my obvious lack of support for Joe Pa has made me somewhat of an outsider amongst my peers. I would like to leave happy valley and be amongst normal people who don’t subscribe to this cult way of thinking.

    I respect Joe Pa for what he did on the field but I don’t care what any PSU person says Joe Pa was just a coach and that is all. As I watched his memorial on thursday it occurred to me just how true this statement is. I question whether Joe Pa ever wanted to be idolized the way he was. He was a talented man he worked hard at his job the same way Michael Jordan is arguably the best man to ever play professional basketball but talent does not equal cause for worship, appreciation perhaps but certainly not worship. Penn Staters are so brainwashed by the legacy that is Joe Pa that they fail to realize this. Penn State was successful in branding Joe Pa the same way Nike did Michael and Disney did Miley Cyrus. Gullible people fall for the branding and then you have those same people going out stabbing others over a pair of sneakers made by kids in a sweatshop overseas because they are “limited edition” with a famous athletes name smacked across them.

    What surprises me the most about people at PSU is that the majority of people never met the man and yet they go out to defend him to the very end. I honestly don’t know what role Joe Pa played in the sex abuse case maybe the media has made him out to be a villain for the sake sensationalism or maybe there really is more that he knew and willingly ignored for the sake of his career and that’s something I can not condone. As a coach Joe Pa will always be a legend but I don’t believe people should try to idolize him beyond that, I don’t think he even believed he deserved that credit.

    • Dave

      Some Penn State Kid – Unfortunately you are probably an example of what Penn State will become without Joe. Apathy just oozed from your post. Do you ever go to the library? Have you noticed Paterno’s name on it? Did you know that Joe made his annual $100,000 donation to Penn State even after he was “fired”? Penn State didn’t brand Joe, Joe made Penn State better.
      Joe coached football that is not his legacy. His legacy is the pursuit of excellence. His legacy is being the example that we can all emulate. He embodied “We Are Penn State” and taught us what that really means. Joe said, “Believe deep down in your heart that you’re destined to do great things.” He was talking to you but you aren’t listening. If you don’t appreciate the opportunity you have there then maybe you should be a Phoenix.

      • BV

        You can’t point to a monetary donation to defend a situation like this, where Paterno himself said he could have and should have done more. Have you thought at all about where that money came from? From Penn State? Or from the endorsement deals made possible by Paterno’s employer, also Penn State? Honestly, Dave, with every post I read from you attempting to prove everyone else wrong and talking down to others, you’re simply making Harris’ point more and more clear. If Paterno was the god that you make him out to be, then by all means it was 100% his responsibility to look further into that “one” incident and put a stop to it. His countless years of charity work do not pardon him of a mistake that he admits he made. To follow that logic would suggest you support Jerry Sandusky too, as his youth program helped thousands as well.

      • Some Penn State Kid

        Dave, you embody everything Harris mentioned in his post, just another Penn State drone who can’t separate the man from the legend. Look around PSU and any other school for that matter there are several other buildings named after notable people. My high school named its newly built stadium after a guy who never even attended the school but was willing to put money down to fund it and thus it had his name sake. It’s not remarkable at all. The fact that you don’t realize that Penn State DID brand Joe shows just how ignorant you are. I don’t even think that it’s debatable that they did for goodness sakes the university held rights to his name and all products made associated with him. Joe didn’t teach us anything, all he did was coach a football team perhaps he did teach and guide many of the football players he coached but he did not teach the entire community all he did was COACH A FOOTBALL TEAM!!! I think its great that he made donations to the university although with the amount of recognition he received from the university it would have been in bad taste to not give back. But in the scheme of things $100,000 is a drop in the bucket some guy is donating millions just so PSU can build a ice skating rink his $100,000 doesn’t even compare. As I already said I respect what Joe Pa accomplished but there is nothing that he did that is worth the level of praise and worship that he receives. He was a man who was successful at what he did and made an effort to give back in some way to a community that made him who he was.

        Oprah is an example of someone who is talented and successful at what she does the woman even built a school in Africa for underprivileged girls, Bill gates revolutionized technology and is part of the reason why we can have this conversation today and even paved the way for me to pursue my dream, he gives millions may be even billions of dollars in scholarships each year Joe Pa is no where near on their level he is just a man who coached a college football team and did it well. All the other fluff you people come up with is the propaganda thrown at you by the university. I applaud PSU for their excellent marketing skills and branding I remember my Professor at Penn State for my freshman engineering course saying the same thing , its a shame that the professors who actually educate us and help us learn in grow, who have helped me obtain scholarships and internships don’t get nearly the recognition of a man who coached a sports team. There’s something really backwards about the PSU community in anyone with even half a brain can see that.

  • Brentwood Belair

    Joe had a choice to make. He chose a path he could not live with. He’d been dying inside for quite some time.

    Brentwood Belair

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