The night before Penn State’s season opener against Ohio, quarterback Matt McGloin tweeted, “The hay is in the barn. It’s time to play.”
The Nittany Lions’ preparation was over. They had reached the point of no return. They were either going to execute their game plan and defeat the Bobcats, or they weren’t.
That sense of finality is something that draws so many to sports. There’s usually a winner and a loser. Sometimes there’s second-guessing if a game is close, but in the end, most just accept the results and move on.
Unfortunately, the details of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case, Joe Paterno’s role in it and the NCAA sanctions on the football program aren’t quite so black and white. That’s probably why, 10 months after the charges against Sandusky were filed, so many still feel the need to stand up against what they see as unfair treatment of the late coach and his program.
This past weekend, we saw Paterno’s former running back, Franco Harris, attempt to talk over Board of Trustees Chairwoman Karen Peetz during the public comment portion of the board’s meeting.
And on Saturday morning, hundreds gathered on the Old Main Lawn for the “Rally for Resignation,” which called on Gov. Tom Corbett, Penn State President Rodney Erickson and all trustees who were serving on the board in November 2011 to vacate their posts over their handling of the charges against Sandusky and the sanctions.
All of this happened on a weekend that Penn State celebrated Military Appreciation Day with Navy in town and coach Bill O’Brien earned his first victory as Paterno’s successor.
You would think, after all this community has been through since late last year, that people would be yearning to focus on positives like those.
Instead, the same tired storyline of how the media framed Joe Paterno and how the university’s leadership caved to the NCAA and Judge Louis Freeh’s investigative findings took center stage.
What a shame.
It’s possible to disagree about countless elements of the Sandusky case, Paterno’s role in it and administration’s handling of it. To dispute that is to buy into the same polarized mindset that poisons our politics and culture at large.
But at some point, Paterno’s defenders need to acknowledge that their hero’s legacy has passed that point of no return. They need to understand that no number of rallies or resignations is going to bring back the squeaky clean image of Paterno that existed before last November, nor will they undo the NCAA’s punishments.
Is that fair? It’s not really my place to say.
Regardless, it’s counterproductive to continue thrusting these dead-end issues ahead of trying to move the university forward.
The hay is in the barn.
Now, it’s probably best to focus on the things the university and football team still have in front of them.
The Lions have their first win and look to be building some momentum ahead of their Big Ten schedule. With any luck, they’ll be able to compete in a Leaders Division that has been disappointing at best so far this non-conference season.
And the university will begin the process of selecting a new president soon. In a way, some of those who “rallied for resignation” are getting their wish, as Erickson won’t be in charge for much longer.
Given that, it would be best if those who rallied on Saturday come to the table and help decide what they want to see in Penn State’s next president, rather than just complaining about the job the current leader has done.
These are two of the countless issues before the community now. It’s time to prioritize them and stop rallying about perceptions and penalties that very likely can’t be changed.
Adam Bittner is a senior majoring in print journalism and is the Collegian’s football editor.