Paterno Loses Support for Freedom Medal: An Alum’s Reaction

One day, Penn State football coach Joe Paterno might see his legacy restored. But in the short term, things are going to get worse for the coach before they get better. Paterno got another piece of bad news when some Senators withdrew their support for Paterno winning the Presidential Medal of Freedom. As a Penn State alum, this news comes as no shock to me. However, it is still the latest bit of painful news in a week full of plenty of them.

Just a few months ago, United States Senators Pat Toomey and Bob Case, along with Representative Glenn Thompson, submitted a proposal to have Paterno receive the distinguished honor. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest honor that a civilian can receive. In submitting the proposal, the three government officials praised Paterno for his years of service to Penn State and his contributions to a wide variety of areas. However, in the wake of the scandal that has swallowed Penn State, Casey and Toomey each pulled their support officially. That essentially kills any chance of Paterno receiving this honor.

I understand why this decision was made. As it stands, Paterno is taking a lot of heat for not doing more regarding the child abuse allegations against former assistant Jerry Sandusky. While facts are not clear and few people if any have real knowledge about what Paterno knew, the court of public opinion has come down hard on Paterno. Many question his legacy while others are reserving judgment. Only time will tell about how the world remembers Paterno. But for now, there was no way that he could have received this award. It's not that Paterno hasn't done plenty of great things over his long tenure at Penn State. But for now, the perception about him is just too negative.

I was so happy when I read about Paterno being a recipient of this honor. I thought he would have been a perfect person to honor. Part of me still believes that. But until we know all of the facts, the reputation of Paterno is going to be unfavorable. No matter what facts come out, there are some people that will never view him the same. Based upon that, awards like this simply can't be given to Paterno.

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Updated Friday, Nov 11, 2011