The words mounted behind the statue of the late Joe Paterno outside Beaver Stadium read:
“They ask me what I'd like written about me when I'm gone. I hope they write I made Penn State a better place, not just that I was a good football coach.”
In the wake of former FBI director Louis Freeh's internal investigation of Penn State, which found that Paterno and top administrators failed to protect children from convicted child sex abuser Jerry Sandusky, it's impossible to read those words the way we did when Paterno was setting records on the field and donating millions to the university.
But we should read them over and over and over again on every football Saturday from now until the end of time. Leave the statue up, not as a tribute, but as a searing reminder that our community needs to do better.
Joe Paterno is not the man many, myself included, thought he was. There is no defense for what investigators have concluded he allowed to take place in his locker rooms.
His legacy isn't tainted by child sex abuse, it's defined by it. Sure, he did a lot of good in his time, but when he had the chance to do the most good, he failed. That's his legacy. And it's a legacy this community needs to learn from. It's a legacy this community needs to make sure it never forgets.
If the idea of walking past that statue on your way to your seat at a game makes you feel uncomfortable, that's good. It should make all of us uncomfortable. That's the point. Bulldozing it won't erase what happened, nor will it erase the consequences. All it will erase is the false idol that now stands more as a testament to our own failings than any of Paterno's.
No, this community is not guilty of Paterno's sins or anyone else's. It is guilty of creating a deferential environment where wins, donations and graduation rates misplaced a man above accountability. We, and perhaps the sports culture beyond the borders of Happy Valley are as responsible for Paterno's misguided deification as anything else, and need to be reminded of that and spurred to take action to correct it moving forward.
The old coach may be gone, but his story is still being written through our actions. How we work to make sure his mistakes are never repeated will define whether he made this a better place or not. Leave the statue up so his words make sure we'll never forget that.
Adam Bittner is The Daily Collegian’s football editor and is a senior majoring in print journalism. Email him at email@example.com.