The late Joe Paterno amassed 409 wins as Penn State’s head football coach from 1966 to 2011, but his legacy has been tarnished. (Matt Rourke / AP)

Some jaw-dropping news came out of Penn State University recently, and perhaps the most shocking aspect of it is that more jaws didn’t drop.

The university, it seems, has made plans to honor the 50th anniversary of Joe Paterno’s first game as head football coach on Sept. 17 in a game against Temple University.

Almost immediately, social media screamed. The best tweet was from Jordan Klepper of “The Daily Show,” who asked:

Maybe the reason there wasn’t even more outrage is that Penn State buried its tribute plans in a Sept. 1 press release listing all football promotions for the season. Under activities for the Sept. 17 game against Temple was this item: “Commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Coach Joe Paterno—Activities during the game will take place to commemorate Joe Paterno’s first game as the head football coach at Penn State—Sept. 17, 1966.”

It would have been a good idea for them to bury the idea all together. Considering that many alumni still regard Paterno as a hero for giving the school a winning football program, the response in the Sept. 2 Penn State student newspaper, the Daily Collegian, was at once both courageous and restrained:

Penn State needs a reality check.

This is not 2011. We need to move on. …

Paterno has not been a member of this university staff since 2011. He is no longer a community hero. Paterno was a remarkable part of this university for numerous years, and for that we have the right to be thankful. For those who attended Penn State while he was here, he has every right to remain a legend. He was a hero, and no one wants to see their hero fall.

But in light if these past years—even these past few weeks—this is in no way the right time or manner to ‘commemorate him,’ if he even deserves to be so. …

This is our Penn State. It is a Penn State without Joe Paterno. It is a Penn State still trying to rebuild, make amends, and propel forward. Those of us here now are beyond ready to move on.

I understand that the student paper must take a respectful attitude toward those who still revere the memory of Paterno, but I am not one of those people.

In 2012, it was revealed that Paterno looked the other way despite having knowledge of former coach Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse of young boys. That was bad enough. Paterno’s friends and family may continue to try to cast doubt on aspects of Paterno’s grand jury testimony and independent investigator Louis Freeh’s report, but Freeh’s main conclusion survives: Paterno, former Penn State president Graham Spanier, former vice president Gary Schultz and former athletic director Tim Curley “all played a part in concealing the facts of Jerry Sandusky’s abuse.” (All three are facing trial on charges related to the Sandusky case.)

Or perhaps the university wants to bring all these former employees back into the limelight for this Sept. 17 celebration?

Let me add that Freeh’s report came out long before the revelations in July that the release of previously sealed court documents included testimony from a victim who says he told Paterno in 1976 that a few years earlier, when he was 14, he had been molested by Sandusky. When he told Paterno, the coach allegedly responded, “I don’t want to hear about any of that kind of stuff. … I have a football season to worry about.”

I wonder—will the halftime ceremony to honor Paterno at the Temple game make mention of this latest testimony? I wonder—have the people who are taking this let-bygones-be-bygones attitude about the Sandusky scandal lost their wits, or did they ever have any in the first place?

Back in 2012, a number of people, myself included, suggested that Penn State might want to consider dropping football altogether for at least a couple of seasons, or, as I wrote on, “turn it around from the profit-making machine that created the mind-set that led to this disgrace in the first place. That is, turn the football program into an instrument of healing.”

Since I think I said it as well as anyone, let me quote myself at greater length. “All revenues from the football program—ticket sales, TV money, merchandising, everything—must go to charities and foundations dedicated to helping abused children and eradicating pedophiles like Jerry Sandusky.”

Well, needless to say, Penn State didn’t go that way but has continued to keep pretending that it’s a major college football power and that the Sandusky scandal never happened. It decided to pretend that the whole scandal wasn’t a “football story” after all. In other words, pretending that all the principals in the case didn’t look the other way because football was involved (even though the abuses occurred on the campus in the athletic department showers).

If they had taken place in the economics department or school of music or even on the soccer team, Sandusky’s ass would have been behind bars faster than a Penn State linebacker can get to a quarterback. But the school administration was more concerned with the damage that a Sandusky revelation would cause the football program than with the harm done to the young victims.

Of course it was a football story. And the amazing part is that some people in the Penn State hierarchy today not only don’t understand this, but seem to have learned nothing from it. Here is university President Eric Barron’s statement after the court documents were unsealed in July:

“While individuals hold different opinions, and may draw different inferences from the testimony about former Penn State employees, speculation by Penn State is not useful. Although settlements have been reached, it also is important to reiterate that the alleged knowledge of former Penn State employees is not proven, and should not be treated as such. Some individuals deny the claims, and others are unable to defend themselves. Speculation also serves to drive a wedge within the Penn State community.”

Is Barron a bigger fool than his predecessor, Graham Spanier?

Yes, settlements have been reached—more than $90 million and still counting, which doesn’t include the $60 million fine the NCAA slapped on the university. Exactly what “speculation” does Barron think is not “useful”? The testimony unsealed in July?

“Some individuals deny the claims” (yes, there are apparently some Penn State officials who still deny what happened), and “others are unable to defend themselves.” Ah, so we’re back to Paterno again—the man who had a football season to worry about, and who is now dead.

Winston Churchill once said, “Americans always do the right thing when they have exhausted all other possibilities.” Penn State long ago exhausted all other possibilities, yet it continues to not do the right thing.

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