Joe Paterno Sentenced To Haunt College Football Coaches Forever More

by evanmcmurry

Well, we’ve all been wondering what’s “worse than the death penalty,” and here it is. But something tells me this stings the most for those with a Nittany Lions hoodie in their closet:

All of Penn State’s victories from 1998 through 2011 will be vacated. Coach Joe Paterno’s record will reflect the vacated victories, meaning he no longer will be recognized as the NCAA’s all-time winningest coach. Paterno won 409 games in 46 seasons as Penn State’s coach. The vacated wins remove 111 victories from his total, dropping it to 298 and leaving him well behind new leader Eddie Robinson of Grambling (408 wins).

This is the crucial symbolic twist. The logic at the heart of the Sandusky cover-up was that the football program comes before anything else. Vacating Paterno’s wins during the years Sandusky was using the eminence of the football program to obscure his crimes replaces football as paramount activity of those years. The most important thing Joe Paterno did from 1998-2011, officially, was aid in the cover-up of a crime, not win 111 games. If the Ghost of Reputations Future visited Paterno in 1998 and told him this, the coach might have concluded that the best way to protect his precious football program was to report Sandusky’s activities, not hide them.

That’s as sad a commentary on college football culture as anything else in this foul drama, but at least it’s a motion toward reform: there’s now an example, in the form of 111 absent wins from Joe Paterno’s record, of what happens when you place the football program above morality. In other words, Joe Paterno’s restless ghost has been sentenced to wander the earth, haunting college football programs forever more. To be worse than the death penalty, the NCAA had to extend Penn State’s punishment into the afterlife.