Joe Paterno’s ouster on Wednesday wasn’t unexpected.
It must, though, be merely the start.
Nothing less than a complete makeover of the entire football program at Penn State is needed to purge the stench of the child sex-abuse case.
For years, we’ve looked at Paterno as a sort of “kindly old Uncle Joe” sort.
He walks gingerly, he ignores questions he doesn’t want to answer in press conferences, or gives a short, dismissive answer, and we all laugh.
The laughing has stopped. In its place is every emotion from pity to disgust, leaning more to the latter.
There is no defense — none — for Paterno’s actions (or more appropriately, his inactions) when he discovered what was going on with former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
Nor can the inactions of his superiors — athletic director Tim Curley and Penn State senior vice-president Gary Schultz — be condoned. Both are gone and their reputations forever stained.
So, too, is Penn State president Graham Spanier, appropriately so. His only response since last Saturday was a prepared statement in which he professed his “unconditional support” of Curley and Schultz.
He never released a statement with any mention of the young victims. That is a shocking and disturbing lack of leadership and compassion for the children and their families.
Granted, there’s no easy way for Penn State to handle this story from a public relations perspective.
Still, it’s hard to imagine a university — with a campus teeming with PR experts — doing a much worse job of handling this situation.
Forget that university leadership did nothing for over nine years despite knowing of Sandusky’s actions.
Forget that Paterno, Spanier and Curley did not alert the elementary school in Clinton County, Pa., when Sandusky began coaching there in 2005.
The last three days alone are a public relations disaster. Every decision, every announcement, has seemingly been made without an ounce of thought behind it.
On Saturday, Penn State plays host to Nebraska. It is a game that some in the media are suggesting should be canceled.
That’s unlikely, and there is some sentiment for the 125 players on the current team who have nothing to do with this mess.
However, the university took the right stance in not permitting Paterno inside the stadium.
His presence inside Beaver Stadium would have only further served to divide a Penn State fan and alumni base that is confused and disillusioned.
Acting Penn State athletic director Mark Sherburn released a statement on Wednesday that said, in part, “We are outraged that a valued trust has been broken. We can promise you that we are doing everything in our power to restore that broken trust.”
Penn State can start by cleaning house of everyone — from university president to assistant equipment manager — who was aware of Sandusky’s offenses.
Only by starting over can that trust be restored.