Was Joe Paterno Really That Generous?


Many of those defending Joe Paterno’s legacy point to his involvement in and giving to many projects at the University.

At the press conference of the Penn State University Board of Trustees on the release of the Freeh Report, Trustee Kenneth Frazier was quoted as saying, that the report found “inexcusable failures on the part of Joe Paterno and others to protect children. But I’d also say Joe Paterno did a lot of tremendous things in his life, and there’s a lot about his life that’s worth emulating. You have to measure every human by the good they’ve done, the bad they’ve done.”  Board Chair Karen Peetz, “”The whole topic of Joe Paterno being honored or not being honored is a very sensitive topic,” Peetz said. “We believe that with the report’s findings, this is something that will continue to be discussed with the entire university community.”

In one of the most reflective and positive retrospectives on Paterno by Jack MaCallum of Sports Illustrated, published in January of this year, Paterno is praised for his leadership of men, apparent commitment to rules, and his giving to the University, the later of which was apparently upwards of four million dollars.  Now that the first two pillars of Paternos’ positive contributions have been wrecked asunder, it was only a matter of time before the final on came unglued.

In a piece for the New York Times today by Jo Becker, we discover that the hand that giveth was also a pretty demanding taker…


In January 2011, Joe Paterno learned prosecutors were investigating his longtime assistant coach Jerry Sandusky for sexually assaulting young boys. Soon, Mr. Paterno had testified before a grand jury, and the rough outlines of what would become a giant scandal had been published in a local newspaper.

That same month, Mr. Paterno, the football coach at Penn State, began negotiating with his superiors to amend his contract, with the timing something of a surprise because the contract was not set to expire until the end of 2012, according to university documents and people with knowledge of the discussions. By August, Mr. Paterno and the university’s president, both of whom were by then embroiled in the Sandusky investigation, had reached an agreement.

Mr. Paterno was to be paid $3 million at the end of the 2011 season if he agreed it would be his last. Interest-free loans totaling $350,000 that the university had made to Mr. Paterno over the years would be forgiven as part of the retirement package. He would also have the use of the university’s private plane and a luxury box at Beaver Stadium for him and his family to use over the next 25 years.

Ultimately, it makes one wonder why there is any debate about honoring Paterno at Penn State or maintaining his statue outside of Beaver Stadium.  The only logical explanation is that the community around the University remains delusional, devoid of values, and in desperate need of leadership.  Apparently, this whole fiasco has taught that insular community nothing.

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