For years, Joe Paterno's persistent retirement controversy has been focused on football. It's been focused on what Penn State owes in return to its legendary coach. It's been focused on a man who has done so much good for such a proud university.
Now, it may be focused on what Paterno didn't do.
Bob Ford has a cutting piece in this morning's Inquirer, detailing what he believes to be the football coach's unforgivable negligence in failing to follow through on what he knew to be unreported and uncharged criminal activity. The article draws a sharp contrast between the Paterno we thought we knew, and the Paterno we really don't want to know.
"Paterno escaped indictment because he told athletic director Tim Curley about an alleged 2002 incident in which a graduate student reported discovering Sandusky performing acts on a boy who was about 10 years old in the shower area of the locker room. Paterno told Curley, who failed to report it to the proper authorities, according to the attorney general. Then Paterno apparently did nothing."
"That is where we start to see the difference between the fictional Joe Paterno, whose reputation and that of the university has been built on rock-solid morals, and what might be the real Joe Paterno."
Ford not only concludes that Paterno has lost his opportunity to walk away on his own terms, but goes on to ask, "If Penn State athletic coaches and administrators could look the other way when a 10-year-old is assaulted on campus by a prominent coach, what wouldn't they do?
While it seems easy to reach for the classic "Say it ain't so, Joe," it doesn't really apply.
Joe said it was so. Now it's just a matter of what he really knew. That's something we'd all like to hear.