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Penn State's Joe Paterno Must Go

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joe paterno
Disgraced Penn State football coach Joe Paterno
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

I lived in State College, Pennsylvania as a very young boy. Three. Four. Five. Even then, thirty-odd years ago, Joe Paterno was a legend. And his Nittany Lions were everything to that town. In particular to young boys.

One of my earliest memories is of sitting on the sun-warmed back of a statue of the Nittany Lion, marvelling at this mythical, muscular concrete cat, with a (then) broken ear. And once, when my family was lining up at the register of a local hardware store, we ended up behind Joe Paterno. Coach! And he was larger than life. He tousled my little head of blond hair. (It was, as I'd later learn in school, an example of good touch.) Paterno smiled at my parents. Said something kind about what a big boy I was. Paid for his his hardware and was off with a wave. It's the stuff of family lore.

And now? It appears that Paterno — JoePa — a father figure for an entire community, knew that his longtime deputy had likely assaulted a young boy in the locker room. His locker room. Paterno, it seems, did what was legally required of him – reported the allegation to his superiors in the athletic department. 

But Paterno failed what was morally required of him. To root out the monster who'd once been his right- hand man. To do everything in his power to make sure that no child rapist was using lure of the Penn State football program and its magnificent facilities to draw boys (just a few years older than me when I was that wide-eyed four year old at the hardware store) into brutal sexual assaults.

Paterno may not be guilty of anything in a legal sense. But as the face of Penn State for more than four decades he is culpable. Here is a man whose career was supposed to be devoted to cultivating excellence in teenagers and grooming them into young men. But that guy looked the other way as innocent grade- schoolers who idolized him and his program became victims of Penn State football.

Joe Paterno must resign. It should happen today.

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