Joe Paterno Is Still a Great Coach Even if He's Not a 'Great Man'

joe paterno statueWhen news broke that Joe Paterno had been let go from Penn State, my first thought was, "Wow ... what a terrible way to have to retire." It's really a shame that after such a long, successful, shining career as the school's head football coach, this is how the guy's career is coming to a close. But at the same time, given the horrifying allegations against Jerry Sandusky and the scandal that has emerged over the past week, it makes a lot of sense why he was let go in the way he was, and that he's now under fire in the way he is.

Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski recently said of Paterno, "I think he's a great man, and it's a horrific situation." Kind of makes you wonder ... is the 84-year-old a great man? Does what happened with Sandusky mean Penn State fans have to completely change how they see their beloved coach? I don't think so. The truth is ... the matter just isn't as black and white as we'd like to make it out to be.


Just consider someone like O.J. Simpson. You can believe he was an amazing football player ... and also a murderer. Or Michael Vick. Total jerk animal hater, but good football player? Yes, all of the above. Even outside of the sports world, look at men like Bill Clinton or JFK -- amazing presidents, crappy husbands. These public figures' very public human failings have definitely changed how we perceive them overall. Once the truth came out, they simply couldn't exist on the pedestals we built for them anymore. But ... should they have been on pedestals to begin with? Probably not.

Just because someone's going down in the Sports Hall of Fame doesn't mean they're not a (sometimes incredibly) flawed human being. In the Penn State history books, Joe Paterno will still be remembered as a brilliant football coach and a legend. Still, when we look back on who he was overall, he certainly won't be illustrated as wearing some kind of football helmet-shaped halo. But maybe he should have never been remembered that way in the first place.

How has this scandal changed your perception of Joe Paterno? Or has it not changed it at all?


Image via Tom Nguyen/Flickr

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