Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The year was 1947 and Bob Higgins led an undefeated Penn State team to the Cotton Bowl to take on SMU. The powers that be for the Mustangs wanted a meeting to "discuss" Penn State's two African-American players, Wally Triplett and Dennie Hoggard. It was SMU's contention that both players should be held out of the game due to their skin color and left behind. Penn State did not comply, of course, and as a result, it was team captain Steve Suhey who coined the phrase "We Are Penn State," going on to say, "There will be no meetings."
To make a long story short, the Nittany Lions were shunned by Dallas hotels and instead stayed at the Naval Air Station about 15 miles outside of Dallas. Triplett ended up scoring a touchdown to tie the game at 13-13, where it would finish. Penn State stood up for what was right that day and certainly played a role, however small, in the civil rights movement.
The phrase that is still chanted to this day in Beaver Stadium on Saturdays has stood the test of time for a program that has always maintained a level of commitment to higher standards both on and off the field.
There have been plenty of national scandals during Joe Paterno's 40-plus years at the helm in Happy Valley, but the Nittany Lions always seemed to be above the fray.
More recently. some of the biggest programs around the country have been hit with recruiting violations, agent tampering, academic fraud and the like, but Penn State was certainly not one of those programs.
Well, taking "improper benefits" pales in comparison to the scandal that has rocked the Penn State campus of late. Former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky has been arrested and charged with molesting eight boys between 1994 and 2009.
The depths of a perceived cover-up are vast. Both Athletic Director Tim Curley and university vice president Gary Schultz have been charged with perjury for not alerting the proper authorities when allegations were made by a graduate student regarding an assault he saw in the team's locker room shower in 2002, as Sandusky was given access to the school's practice facilities for his foundation that he set up to help underprivileged boys.
Unfortunately, for the usually Teflon Joe Paterno, collateral damage may very well engulf him.
Unfortunately, for the usually Teflon Paterno, collateral damage may very well engulf him.
It was Paterno who was alerted of Sandusky's behavior in 2002 and although he followed the letter of the law in terms of his requirement to the school by forwarding the matter to the AD, he failed to do what was right, which was make sure the school moved forward legally with an investigation, perhaps preventing seven more years of possible abuse.
Paterno cooperating with authorities nine years after the fact doesn't absolve him of his lack of action in 2002.
"As my grand jury testimony stated, I was informed in 2002 by an assistant coach that he had witnessed an incident in the shower of our locker room facility," Paterno said in a press release. "It was obvious that the witness was distraught over what he saw, but he at no time related to me the very specific actions contained in the Grand Jury report. Regardless, it was clear that the witness saw something inappropriate involving Mr. Sandusky. As Coach Sandusky was retired from our coaching staff at that time, I referred the matter to university administrators."
He went on further to say, "I understand that people are upset and angry, but let's be fair and let the legal process unfold. In the meantime I would ask all Penn Staters to continue to trust in what that name represents, continue to pursue their lives every day with high ideals and not let these events shake their beliefs nor who they are."
Paterno's press release covered all the necessary areas, but may have gone one step too far. We could have done without the part about Penn Staters trusting in what the name means continuing to live with high ideals.
He failed to do that very thing in 2002.
Despite the Hall-of-Famer going down as arguably the greatest coach in college football history, his accomplishments both on the football field and as a humanitarian, will now forever be marred by this scandal.
While Paterno may not be held accountable for his lack of action legally by the court system, the court of public opinion is a completely different animal.