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An Alum’s Defense of Joe Paterno

Joe Paterno’s involvement in the Jerry Sandusky case has been a molten hot topic of conversation over the past few days and unfortunately his iconic status has helped to turn the big story of all of this away from where it should be focused and away from the biggest villains and victims in all of this. Remember that Sandusky is the man who is being charged with 40 counts of sexual abuse against a minor. Tim Curley is the man that allegedly orchestrated a massive cover-up along with Gary Schultz. Graham Spanier is the man who offered his unconditional support to those two.

Could Paterno have done more? Yes. Should he have done more? Very likely. We all understand the anger directed at Paterno, but remember that there is going to be plenty of information regarding his role in all of this to be released. While many have been quick to call for Paterno’s job both nationally and more close to home, there are some who wish to hold off until we know more.

Penn State alum Eugene Stasak posted an open letter on his Facebook page as a defense of Paterno. With his permission we have republished it here in hope that more people have an opportunity to read it.


I just want to start off and say that I have zero inside information here and I don’t know any more than anything that’s been reported. I’d also like to state that this is a tragic string of events that destroyed many lives. I wish the best for every victim and their family and hope that they get all the justice that they deserve. That being said, I have one major issue with the national media right now, everyone is assuming Joe is guilty of something while he is, repeatedly, being denied the opportunity to tell his side of the story. Fact is, nobody except Mike McQueary and Joe Paterno know what was said during their conversation on that tragic day in 2002 and until/unless more of those details come out, nobody may ever know how much Paterno really knew. What is clear is that McQueary reported that he clearly saw something inappropriate occur between Sandusky and a ten year old boy. Since every article that doesn’t focus solely on facts (99.9999% of them out there) are all opinion-based journalism, here’s my version, an opinion that assumes Paterno’s innocence, not the worst.

As the story unfolds, Paterno then went to athletic director Tim Curley, who called Gary Schultz, VP of Finance and Business, into the meeting and reported the disturbing and inappropriate conduct. Schultz oversaw university police at the time. Joe Paterno’s whole career and legacy has been built on being morally right. These two people were high-profile officials within Penn State, why would Joe have any reason to think they would not do the right thing? Since the event occurred on campus, jurisdiction falls first on the university police. Schultz oversaw the University police. Is it really that big of a stretch to think that Joe felt he was reporting the incident to the proper authorities (meaning police) in this scenario? To further this, how do we know Paterno didn’t follow up with Schultz or Curley only to be told they’d taken care of it or that they performed some sort of investigation and found nothing. Why would he have any reason to question them? Those that point to the 1998 investigation claim that this was the second time that allegations like these were brought about Sandusky. While its easy to look back now and say that there was clearly some weight to those allegations, Sandusky was cleared of all charges in 1998 when there was a full investigation by police and a district attorney. While there is a conspiracy theory about all that, why would a man that always assumes the best in people have any reason to assume EVERYONE around him is corrupt?

Is it really that far of a stretch to think Joe Paterno really didn’t know as much as the national media seems to think he knows. Most around Penn State agree that the national media really has no clue what Paterno’s true role is at Penn State, with many of them thinking that he seems to be everywhere at once and makes every decision for both the football program and everything else on campus. They also seem to think he’s some mascot we parade out every Saturday that doesn’t do any actual coaching anymore. Ask any Penn State player, Paterno is still just as involved in coaching his players as he was three decades ago. How else would he keep getting injured at practice if he wasn’t right in the middle of the action watching players’ technique and yelling at them when they falter.

Schultz and Curley have already been implicated and arrested for doing something wrong, lying under oath. There is no evidence that Joe Paterno tried to continue covering anything up or looked the other way. In fact, the attorney general stated that Paterno is not a target in this investigation. Unlike Graham Spanier, who got a very non-committal response from the AG, saying the investigation is ongoing. There is no evidence that Paterno had any reason to believe that these allegations, while they occurred on more than one occasion, were actually true given Sandusky was never charged in either scenario and in both cases, he felt that the proper authorities were notified and full investigations were conducted. Meanwhile, all the allegations came up during the dark days of Penn State. The years of 2000-2004, Paterno lost more and more power within the institution as many were calling for his head. Curley and Spanier turned on him and asked him to resign, resulting in Paterno famously chasing them out of his house. Then in 2006 during the Wisconsin game, he was injured in a sideline collision. Since then, Paterno has been in pretty bad shape, really only coming onto campus to go to practice. Isn’t it possible that he simply never ran into Sandusky or even knew he was around? Even when Sandusky was at practice, Paterno could’ve been, you know, coaching and just never noticed him. Many former coaches, media, recruits, and other people in/around the program attend practices. Even if he did see Sandusky with the kids, given that he was never charged, isn’t it plausible that given what I stated earlier, Paterno just didn’t believe the allegations since Sandusky was cleared of all charges?

Curley, Schultz, and Graham Spanier are all either already either in custody or are heavily being investigated by the attorney general and the state. All three of these men were involved and said to have known about the 2002 incident. All three of them are the last people to find out about it and are the highest up the chain ladder. All three are men that Paterno undoubtedly trusted at the time. Curley and Spanier have been trying to get Paterno to retire since about 2003. These are men that the state has decided to go after. Men that have supposedly lied under oath to cover their asses. While there is much outrage across the country about Joe Paterno, people seem to be ignoring the President. Penn State faithful and those close to the university/program are all sitting around wondering, where is Graham Spanier? Spanier is stonewalling every attempt that Paterno makes to speak to the media and has been alarmingly quiet since the news broke. This is the president of the BCS Oversight Committee. He has arguably the third biggest influence in the Big Ten after Commissioner Jim Delaney and Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee. Is it not also plausible that these are the men that covered everything up? Whether its allowing Sandusky to continue to use campus facilities, giving him his own office, shutting down any form of investigation, even failing to inform the charity. Curley, Schultz, and Spanier were in prime position to be the key cogs in covering everything up. Joe Paterno is legendary for seeing the best in people, trusting them, and holding people to their word. He’s old school like that. If these three men told him that they were going to take care of things and then came back and told him that after investigating the incidents, they found that it was all a misunderstanding and that they truly were just horsing around, I find it hard to believe Paterno wouldn’t believe them. Why would he have any reason to?

Now all of this speculating is just as relevant and plausible as everyone who is walking around saying Joe HAD to know what was going on and that he was simply turning a blind eye. The truth is, until Paterno is allowed to actually speak out about this, until the trials go down and all the facts come out, we simply don’t know what Paterno did and did not know. I don’t know what the correct course of action to follow is. Do you suspend Paterno until the legal system plays out? Do you fire him along with everyone else and start anew? Do you continue to let him coach? This is a hard decision given the lengendary nature of his position, I’m certainly glad I don’t have to make it. Fact is, I’ve heard many alums say they will give up on Penn State for a long time if Paterno is allowed to coach this weekend. Many others say they won’t be giving Penn State a dime until everyone involved is cleaned out. I’ve also heard numerous others say they will quit on Penn State for a while if Paterno isn’t allowed to finish this season. Personally, Penn State is more than just one man, two men, or even 500 men and women. Penn State is so much bigger than that. As long as everyone who believes in the ideals that all these men allegedly stood for. As long as we believe in “Success with Honor” and live everyday of our lives by our code, we will restore the reputation that we all once had. Most importantly though, let’s all do everything we can to give back to the families affected. Let us show them that We Are Penn State and that we are respectable, honorable, and take care of those wronged by those among us that do not belong.

-Eugene Stasak

Class of 2009

Information Sciences and Technology



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