COMMENTARY| It's hard to imagine the late Joe Paterno as a monster, a liar and a hypocrite.
Sadly, according the Freeh Report's findings, that's exactly what he was prior to his death. After watching hours of televised coverage of the Freeh Report's conclusions, it became evident that Paterno, Penn State's former legendary football coach, indeed knew horrific details regarding his former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky's inappropriate relationships with young men.
Sandusky was recently found guilty on 45 of 48 sexual molestation/rape-related charges, crimes against innocent youth who enrolled in The Second Mile program, which Sandusky started to provide children with "help and hope." Sandusky reportedly raped young men in showers located on the campus of Penn State and in the basement of his home.
But amidst the controversy that fully unrolled last fall, Paterno claimed that he did everything in his power to stop Sandusky, who retained full access to the university and football program during that time.
According to the Freeh Report -- a 267-page account -- Paterno knew about Sandusky's disgusting behavior as early as 1998, but took limited action. The same was true in 2001. The Freeh Report, led by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, stated that Paterno "concealed critical facts to avoid bad publicity."
A man who preached honor, respect, truth and dignity felt it was more important to retain the image of his football program rather than confront a monster who preyed on children. Paterno swept the incidents under the rug and, in essence, passed the buck to higher authorities who also did nothing.
When Paterno died, I felt it was unjust to publicly ridicule a man who wasn't around to defend himself. He made errors, I thought. Sure, there was the possibility that he knew more, but there wasn't any hard evidence -- until Thursday.
When I think of Paterno, I won't remember his wins. I won't remember his charming personality or contributions to the game of college football. I will, however, remember how young victims were nothing but faceless kids maliciously ravaged by Sandusky -- but to Paterno, they weren't all that important. Paterno knew for at least 14 years about Sanduksy, and displayed "shocking disregard for child victims," according to the Freeh Report.
For those defending Paterno, it's time to stop. His legacy is forever tarnished. There is more than enough evidence to prove that he was negligent. Many Penn State fans, and college fans across the nation, refuse to believe that iconic old man knew more than he said, including his own family. They took his word for it, rallying around his legend and launching verbal assaults at anyone who disagreed.
Facts are facts -- and they were uncovered by a former FBI Director. An investigation doesn't really get any more thorough.
I respected Paterno for what he did for college football. But now, despite his 61 years of gridiron glory, all I can think about are the nameless young men, known as "Victim 5," or "Victim 6," who are forever scarred because a football coach chose to look the other way to save himself and uphold the public's perception of a football team.
Adam Biggers has followed NCAA football for over 20 years, specifically the Big Ten Conference. He can be found on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.
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