The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Paterno: Guilty by Omission

2 min read


About a month ago, Joe Paterno, head coach of the football team for Penn State University, was fired. Paterno’s failure to report sexual assault from the football team’s former Defense Coordinator Jerry Sandusky back in 2002 caused quite a raucous within the community.

Paterno was aware of the situation with Sandusky because Assistant Coach Mike McQueary informed him of it nine years ago, yet he did not bring these accusations to the authorities immediately. Sandusky had the opportunity to sexually assault young boys under the name of a charity he founded; yet the authorities did not find this out until very recently.

Paterno, now 84, has not been criminally charged, and many would say that this is a good thing. He failed to bring up a serious issue to the authorities, but this does not change the fact that he dedicated a great portion of his life to Penn State’s football team and led them to success.

He was a great contribution to the Penn State football team, but what he did is inexcusable. Sandusky’s actions were terrible, and for him to escape the law for all these years is an abomination.

Paterno did not commit the crime himself, but failure to report such a major issue not only made the abused children’s lives hopeless, but jeopardized the safety of all the young and vulnerable boys in the charity.

I believe Sandusky thought it was possible to get away with these immoral acts, so he repeated them time and time again. According to, Sandusky said, “I may have horsed around,” but what he did is much worse than just “horsing around.”

He acted as if nothing happened, while there are numerous reports of sexual assault from families of young boys. The fact that Paterno did not report these findings to the authorities simply gave Sandusky an incentive. He took advantage of his opportunities and, as a result, ruined the lives of many vulnerable boys.

What is worse is that these boys were part of a charity, something that stood for a greater cause. By not bringing up the issue, Paterno only ruined his reputation. It is not as if he couldn’t have replaced Sandusky.

No matter how uncomfortable Paterno was about accusing his defense coordinator, he shouldn’t have pretended that the problem didn’t exist, especially when it was ruining the lives of kids.

Social status has nothing to do with bringing up an important issue such as this. Sandusky committed the crime, but Paterno should have similar, if not equal, weight, because he did not report the problem as soon as he found out.

Not reporting these acts to the police only encouraged Sandusky to repeat his actions. Paterno and Sandusky are both guilty as charged.