He may have done huge amounts of good during his coaching tenure, unfortunately, he made one fatal mistake. He took the word tenure too far.
Joe's ego was the problem. He should have retired many years earlier. His ego ended up allowing his age to interfere with good judgement.
Everything Paterno's family says in defense of Joe may be true. He himself said "in hindsight, he wished he would have done more."
The younger Joe Paterno coach, in the 1970's or 1980's, would have caught on to what Sandusky was doing and would have acted.
It was in 1998, when Paterno was already 71 years old, that the first of Sandusky's pedophilic behavior came to be known.
Paterno never wanted to leave his head coaching position because he felt he could run his team till he died, which practically happened.
Contrasted with Bobby Bowden now, Paterno looks to be the bigger fool.
It took Bowden at Florida State to go through embarrassing NCAA sanctions and a poor win/loss record to finally figure out at 80 years old that the head coaching job needed a new lifeline.
Paterno never would have envisioned a child molester bringing his legendary status down to pieces. Nobody could have predicted it.
His biggest flaw was not coming to terms with the end of a coaching career. It led to his demise. He thought he would be untouchable till his death. Then, after a while, his age worked in conjunction with his ego. Together, they formed an unbreakable bond.
Nobody was going to force Joe out after a certain amount of birthdays. He knew better, he thought.
Paterno's family didn't advise him well, either. Probably he had an excellent chance to make a good break from coaching in his late sixties. But, as the years passed, the opportunity to talk sense to him, probably passed as well. He was about to turn 85 years old when he finally fell off his perch.
He may have been set in his ways or he was unsure of how to handle these kinds of child molestation charges. His inclination was that it would all go away, like Watergate and President Nixon.
His age became his crutch. He may have thought nothing that bad could be blamed on such an old guy.
When one is responsible for so many other people's behaviors, as is a head coach at a Division I school in the U.S., that person must do their very best to hold up the highest standards of integrity. They must be vigilant and just at all times.
For all of those in society in their seventies and eighties, Paterno gave them a bad reputation for competency. Or, is society not supposed to expect a 70 or 80 year-old to be a Division I head football coach to begin with?
The truth is, that it was Paterno's age that wouldn't let him do what was right. Paterno had to have a fight, a Nittany Lion tussle, in his life. It was his addiction. Paterno's egotistical passion for Happy Valley was on par with Sandusky's egotistical passion for young boys.
Paterno used his age, especially his older age, as a tool to intimidate others from telling him what to do. And, eventually, he knew others wouldn't intervene to tell him otherwise because of his age. By the end, it was his age and ego that wouldn't let him alone to have peace.
Originally published July 15, 2012