Paterno's gone, but victims aren't

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A South Marion Citizen editorial

Amid all the tributes pouring in for former Penn State University football coach Joe Paterno, amid all the sorrowful vigils after his death last Sunday, amid all the flowers, etc., left for the family, there is one group of people that we feel must be remembered …  the victims.
Paterno was by no means guilty of any physical crimes in the sex abuse scandal which has one of his former assistants charged with abuse of boys, but in Paterno’s own words, he should “have done more.”
When it was brought to his attention that some sort of improprieties had occurred, he told school superiors, but failed to go any further, especially with the legal reporting of an alleged crime. As a result, the school dismissed the football coach, who had been a part of the college scene for decades.
Just a few months later, lung cancer claimed his life.
There was no doubt that Paterno was a great football coach – his record speaks for itself. But the cloud of the scandal will be over his head as long as the current generation of people lives. Some might disagree, but just look at the record. Remember Woody Hayes, the legendary Ohio State coach? His career ended after the 1978 Gator Bowl when he hit an opposing player in the neck. Despite the adulation of the fans, his school fired him, and to this day that’s one of the major things for which he is remembered.
Some sentimentalists have used the firing of Paterno to say he “died of a broken heart.” But let’s not kid ourselves. Lung cancer is a serious, progressive disease, and one can be reasonably sure that it did not develop overnight inside the body of the coach, although it
wasn’t made public until after he was fired.
So let’s take away a couple of things from this awful situation: first, there were boys who were victims in this case, and we doubt that they or their families are forgetting that in the shadow of Paterno’s death; second, those who might be susceptible to a disease such as lung cancer should make sure that they get annual tests to try to catch this awful disease early enough to survive; and third, the fact that we lost a great football coach is important to the sports world, but way down the list of priorities.

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