The Freeh Report Destroys Joe Paterno’s Legacy, Reveals Late Coach’s Irreconcilable Flaws

The Freeh Report Destroys Joe Paterno's Legacy, Reveals Late Coach's Irreconcilable Flaws"We are Penn State!"

That was the chant we heard over and over in the days, weeks and months after the initial allegations surrounding former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky surfaced. Those chants got even louder after longtime head coach Joe Paterno was fired, unfairly in the eyes of some of the most ardent — and blinded — Penn State fans and alums.

The Freeh Report was released on Thursday morning, and it delivered some pretty damning details of aggressive attempts to ensure that Sandusky's horrors were kept quiet, all while attempting to keep the good names of men like Paterno, Tim Curley, Graham Spanier, Gary Schultz and the university intact.

Ironically, those efforts helped destroy the reputations of all.

Joe Paterno did a lot of good things for Penn State in his nearly 46 years as head football coach. Those no longer matter. It no longer matters how much money Paterno gave back. It no longer matters how nice of a man he may have been to someone walking down the street. All those folksy stories that we heard in the hours, days and weeks following Paterno's firing no longer matter.

The lasting legacy of the longtime head coach will now be one of a man who lied and covered up the sexual abuse of children. Really, all you have to do is detach yourself from things for a moment, step back and just think about that. 

Even then, it's not enough for some. Penn State alum and ESPN contributor Matt Millen appeared on SportsCenter on Thursday morning shortly after Louis Freeh's news conference discussing the findings. 

"You can't discount all the good that he's done," Millen said. "He has flaws and it's one of them. This decision here was one of them. It was a mistake."

You certainly can discount all of the good he's done, Matt. You bet he has flaws, this is one of them and it's greater than a lot of the flaws you or I have.

This wasn't a mistake, though. Not at all. This was a calculated decision to cover up rape. That's not a mistake, Matt. That's demonic.

Paterno did hundreds, probably thousands of really good things in his time on earth. There's no denying that. If we look at each one of those in a vacuum, well then he deserves a pat on the back and a "Good job, JoePa!" for each.

But in terms of magnitude, he could have funded a million libraries, won Penn State a national title in every sport and personally tutored each and every student-athlete and it still wouldn't make up for what he allowed to happen under his reign as Penn State head football coach.

When push came to shove, Paterno put himself, those closest to him and the university he worked for ahead of innocent victims of truly unspeakable crimes. At some point, Paterno and the rest of the men in power at Penn State needed to step up and be adults. They thought they were protecting the university by protecting themselves. Instead, they made Penn State the ultimate example of how power can cloud judgment, even when it comes to the most basic of right and wrong decisions.

These men, Paterno included, were trusted to lead Penn State in the right direction. They failed miserably in doing that. That's disgusting by itself. What makes this repulsive, however, is the callous lengths at which they went to cover this up. Their No. 1 concern sure looks to have been how they could make themselves and the university look good, rather then putting an end to these crimes.

As power brokers of that institution, they were looked at to do what's best for the university. They not only failed in doing that, they failed to do what was best for other human beings who couldn't defend themselves.

So what can we do about this? Well, we could do a lot of things. We could tear down the statue of Paterno outside of the football stadium. That probably needs to happen. We could give the Nittany Lions football program the death penalty. That, as well, probably needs to happen.

Who really cares, though?

At the end of the day, taking down a statue and suspending a football program won't ease the pain of the victims. It won't turn back time and allow Paterno et al to do the right thing. No one will.

Perhaps the greatest thing we can do from all of this is learn from it. Sometimes in sports we fall prey to the incredible power that it bestows upon some. It opens the door for money and power. 

One of the strongest paragraphs of The Freeh Report illustrates the types of problems that this causes. 

The "inaction and the concealment on the part of its most senior leaders" trickled down to the bottom of the "University's pyramid of power," the report stated.

"This is best reflected by the janitors' decision not to report Sandusky's horrific 2000 sexual assault of a young boy in the Lasch Building shower. The janitors were afraid of being fired for reporting a powerful football coach."

Again, just step back for a moment and try to digest that. Janitors, who witnessed unspeakably heinous crimes, are afraid to speak up out of fear. This is the environment and culture that was harvested deep inside the Penn State football program, no matter how much things like Peachy Paterno ice cream or the Paterno Library tried to illustrate otherwise.

You can take down the statue. You can rename the library. When it comes down to it, however, there will always be the "total disregard for the safety" of these children who were taken advantage of and preyed upon by a monster of a man.

Those actions were crimes, and for that, Jerry Sandusky will be punished vehemently.

Joe Paterno, on the other hand, wasn't a criminal, at least not in the same gruesome sense that Sandusky is. But he's also apparently not the man we thought he was for much of his tenure and life. 

This is now Paterno's legacy now. He is Penn State.

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