You can’t cover up 61 years of success with honor

This text was run as a full page advertisement in the Centre Daily Times on Friday, September 21, 2012. The advertisement was paid for by a concerned alumnus who after attending the first game of the season, was deeply saddened by what appears to be the University’s systematic removal of all evidence of Joe Paterno’s 61 years of contributions to Penn State — even though he was never investigated or found guilty of any sort of crime. The alumnus came to PS4RS to facilitate getting the advertisement placed.

Thirty years ago, Joe Paterno won his first National Championship.

But he was not happy. And he was far from satisfied.

This was his message to the Board of Trustees:

I would hope on this occasion, since I’ve never addressed a Board meeting, to share some thoughts with you as to where we are and what I hope we can get done here at the University.

It pleases me, obviously, to be part of the Number One football team. But having said that, I’m going to be very frank with you, and I may say some things here that maybe I should not, but it does give me an opportunity to tell you how I feel and what I want to do and what kind of contributions I’d like to make to this institution as I stay on.

It bothers me to see Penn State football be Number One and then pick up a newspaper and find that we don’t have many of our disciplines rated up there with the other institutions in the country.

I think this is a magic time for Penn State. There has never been a time when Penn State has been more united or proud. Now maybe it’s unfortunate that it takes a Number One football team to do that. I don’t think we can lose the opportunities that this moment presents to us, and I don’t mean in athletics. I’m not even concerned about the athletic aspects of where we are. I think we can handle that and make sure we can maintain the kind of teams that you people like to see and you can be proud of and identify with the type of students and the type of football players we get.

I talk to you now as a faculty member who has spent 33 years at Penn State, who has two daughters at Penn State, who probably will have three sons at Penn State, who has a wife who graduated from Penn State, who has two brothers-in-law that graduated from Penn State. And I talk to you as somebody who has recruited against Michigan and Stanford, UCLA, Notre Dame, Princeton, Yale and Harvard and who has had to to identify some things that they have that are better than we have and has had to identify some of our problems.

We need academic chairs. We need money so we can get some academic stars. We need scholarship money to get scholars who can be with the stars and be stimulated by them. We need better libraries so that the stars and the scholars have the tools to realize their potential. We need an environment of dissent and freedom of speech and freedom to express new and controversial ideas. Basically this Board is reactionary. We need more controversy, we need more people to come to us with different ideas. And we need more minorities. I am constantly fighting the battle, “we don’t have enough blacks; we don’t have enough minorities.”

We have some excellent departments. But we also have some departments that are absolutely lousy. And we have some lazy profs who are only concerned with tenure and getting tenure for some of their mediocre colleagues. Some of these people would make Happy Valley into Sleepy Hollow if we let them.

Pirandello, the brilliant Italian playwright, (I suppose brilliant and Italian is redundant) wrote a play in which the characters come to life and then try to finish writing the play. Well, I think that Penn State is more alive today than at any time in the 33 years that I’ve been here. It’s looking for something but it is not bricks and mortar. I think we are looking for the soul of this institution. Who we are, what we are, and that basically comes down to soul. We need vibrant, aggressive, brilliant teachers and scholars. We need to give them the resources to grow and the freedom to challenge some of the old ideas and old conceptions.

I have had a lot of people come to me wanting to know how they can help. I am ready to help to make “Number One” mean more than when we stick that finger up its only football. We’ve been fortunate that we’ve been able to get to where we are our way. We haven’t cheated. We’ve done it with people who legitimately belong in college. We’ve set a standard in one area that I think has created a challenge for us to reach in all areas.

I think you know how much I love this institution and how much I appreciate what it has meant to me and my family for 33 glorious years. 33 years of a great love affair that I have had with this University and this town. I have no regrets. I’m only anxious to make it even bigger and better, not so much in size but in quality and influence. Thank you.

Excerpted from a speech delivered January 22, 1983 (29 years, to the day, that he passed away.)

That, in summation, is the Penn State “football culture” some criticize today.

You can’t cover up 61 years of success with honor.

23 thoughts on “You can’t cover up 61 years of success with honor

  1. THANK YOU for publishing these comments. I wish it could be published in every news venue in the country, especially ABC news (Diane Sawyer), as so had this scandal as her lead for a week.

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  2. Here’s the problem: PS4RS has become too Paterno-centric.

    The more people make it about Joe, the more the Board of Trustees and Administration win because it deflects the attention away from them.

    There will be an appropriate time in future to fight for Joe, but now is not that time.

    The focus and crux of our efforts at this critical juncture must be squarely on the failures of the Board of Trustees and the Administration. There is MORE than enough ammunition to nail them with that has nothing at all with Joe Paterno. That, my friends, is how you will be most effective and successful.

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    1. Our mission statement is clear: WE intend to vote out the Penn State Board of Trustees. That will take until at least 2014 to accomplish but we will stay active as long as it takes.

      The board has treated Joe, his family, and his legacy shamefully. And they have badly bungled their responsibilities as governors of our University. It is hard to imagine how they could have done worse since 11/9/11. Syracuse University has dealt with a scandal at least the equal of the Sandusky trauma, but they have stood up for and protected the Syracuse brand, while our administration has been waving the white flag of surrender every chance it gets.

      This process involves both heart, mind and soul of Penn State. Check out our legal task force’s thorough analysis of the flawed Freeh Report in a previous blog posting to see where our minds are.

      But for many of us, including the anonymous donor who funded this media campaign, Joe Paterno represents the heart and soul. There will be no postponing or abandoning of our quest for justice for Joe.

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    2. Concerned…I don’t understand how you decouple JoePa from the BOT failures and the NCAA extremism. It is not about being Paternocentric but in pointing out ALL of the failures. This speech goes to the heart of the Freeh report findings and show that the football program was not the end all for Joe. This is just one more bit of the story, like the PS4RS analysis of the Freeh report that in my opinion as a whole paint a clear picture of the BoT’s incompetence and malfeasance. Finally, I won’t hide behind an anonymous moniker when I express my heartfelt displeasure with the current PSU governance.

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      1. I know it’s hard, but for the sake of efficiency and staying focused, you must remove Joe Paterno from the equation for the time-being. As I said, the more people put up Joe Paterno billboards (anonymously, I’ll point out), the more the media and the public will focus on that and not on the removal of the Trustees and how they have continually bungled this mess.

        I admire Joe Paterno. We have all the time in the world to uncover the truth for him – later –, but time is of the essence to save our University and remove the Trustees. That is the utmost priority.

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        1. I believe you are sincere and your advice is well meant.

          This blog, however, and the PS4RS group has no intention of “removing Joe Paterno from the equation.”

          Gary Levitt
          Editor

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          1. “Remove” may have been a poor choice in words, but it needs to be put on the back-burner for the time-being. Otherwise, efforts to remove the Trustees will be greatly overshadowed.

            As I said, there is plenty of time in the future to restore his good name – after we rid ourselves of the cancer that is the Board of Trustees.

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    3. I agree very strongly with the above statement.
      The question comes to my mind as to why we can not find some highup responsible “Leadership” that can help lead the way to “TRY” and correct some of this very travestry of injustice.
      We keep talking about a “miscarriage” of justice, then there has to be a way to go about rectifying it.
      Since the “News Media” was the basic vehicle for how this all turned into a free-for-all of mass hysteria, why can’t we use the media to help reverse the trend for setting and establishing opinions.
      There has to be thousands of responsible leaders who couldhelp with this cause, even though they may not be Penn State followers.

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  3. I have a unique perspective on how much the university changed in a short period of time due to Joe Paterno’s challenge issued to the Board of Trustees. I began my freshman year at Penn State in the fall of 1981. My funds dried up and I had no sophomore year. After working for eight years, I returned as a full-time student in Main Campus in the summer of 1989. The university metamorphosis during my “break” was startling. As I reflect on it now and read my fellow alumni’s stories of the countless fundraising dinners attended, I realize just how much Joe had to do with the academic changes at Penn State. One man’s vision catapulted Dear Old State onto the world stage. WE ARE what we are today, because HE WAS so much more than a football coach. Thank you, Joe.

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    1. Thank you. When I went to Penn State back in the early Sixties, many of my Pittsburgh friends referred to it as a cow college. We’ve come a long way, Debby, and Joe was a critical part of that journey.

      Gary Levitt ’64

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  4. THanks for publishing Joe’s comments to the board. You can search all through the history of college football and coaches and you will find that not one football coach other than Joe Paterno ever addressed the board of his university and expressed these concerns and hopes for the future. THIS is the crux of why we alumni are so offended and outraged by the BOT’s craven actions, the fraudulent Freeh Report, and the rank hypocrisy of Mark Emmert and the NCAA and the ludicrous sanctions that they placed on the university. As Debby stated in her post — Joe put Penn State on the map via football and then he challenged the BOT to work to put Penn State on the map academically and then he donated his own money and worked tirelessly with the administration and the board to raise the money needed to catapult Penn State into the upper echelon of universities. We can’t and we won’t forget what Joe did for Penn State and we can’t and won’t forget or forgive what the BOT, Erickson, and Gov. Corbett did to Joe Paterno and the university with their cowardly actions in November 2011 and going forward.

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  5. Perhaps I am being irrational but even after all of this time, I find that my anger is still barely under control. I love what PS4RS is doing, and Ziegler and Slaten and the alumni, etc. but I still feel like we continue to be so on the defensive side of things. I want to be on the offense – I want to agressively go after everyone who is at fault, especially the BOT, the NCAA, Surma, Corbett, ESPN, etc. Isn’t there some legal action that we as alumni can take now or in the very near future? Has there been any talk of class action law suits or other options?

    Forgive my ignorance, I am not a legal expert so I really don’t understand what options we have – I am obviously grasping at straws but I want to see these people pay now for what they have done to the University, the students, the entire Penn State family and to Joe too. I keep being told that nothing significant will happen until at least the court cases in January. Please tell me that we don’t have to wait years for the truth to come out and for these people to pay.

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    1. Paula,

      I have similar sentiments as you and will add a couple of people to go after. I don’t know Pennsylvania law but would love to see the Attorney General and Governor be recalled as they did with Gray Davis in California years ago. The AG, in particular, who wrote such a media grubbing indictment which turned out to be full of untruths.

      It is extremely frustrating to see the BOT not fighting the sanctions or rejecting the Freeh report. I have yet to see anyone other than a sports talk moron who puts any credence in the Freeh report and have seen many, including PS4RS who have shredded it. The former chairs of the Faculty Senate also wrote a scathing letter to the BOT, which I don’t believe has appeared here yet. One of the signers was my academic advisor and his name was all I needed to see to put a lot of faith in what they said.

      Guess we need to keep after this and maybe someday we’ll be seen as serious and not just a rabble rousing group of frustrated alums!

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      1. Jeff – I just don’t understand. If the AG told known lies, why can’t there be slander lawsuits NOW? I would think lawyers would be ‘standing in line’ to go after these people for millions. Again, I’m not a lawyer so I don’t know what ‘strategy’ may be playing out but I just don’t understand what everyone is waiting for!

        I read the Faculty Senate statement – outstanding. In fact, I’ve read just about everything I can find on this entire issue-exept the new book ‘Paterno’ – just picked it up last night and will read that too.

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  6. Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase said. “I remember one time I handed the ball off and ran my fake out and Mauti just came up and screamed ‘Man, I could have lit you up right there.’ I said, ‘I appreciate that you didn’t.’ The chance for dirty play was there but they’re not dirty players. They flat-out beat us today.” (from IlliniHQ.com) Success with honor continues. Men with no honor like Mark Emmert can never erase that. We are..PENN STATE!!!!!!

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  7. Has anyone read the Grand Jury presentation concerning Graham Spanier? Aside from the main thrust against Spanier, Shultz and Curley….there is NO involvment of Paterno…none! Curley’s email “after discussing with Joe” states nothing from Paterno and all Curley”s reasons why the plan changed.(pgs 16,17).
    Presentment states “coverup by Spanier, Shultz and Curley who formed the very apex of decision making and power at Penn State”(pg 33)… “to spare the University tremendous negative publicity and avoid embarrassment” (pg 34)…no mention of the football team or any sport!
    If NCAA were asked to use this presentment which is THE legal prevailing document and answer WHY was the Football program punished and Paterno’s victories vacated by a Law Suit in court, they would not have an answer.

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  8. I was a Joe Paterno “watcher” for over 35 years. When I first became aware of the “Grand Experiment”, I was a skeptic. To me, Joe was just posturing to benefit his team. I could not have been more wrong.

    Over the years, I have read some of Joe’s books, some books about Joe, and magazine and newspaper articles that both glorified and sometimes vilified Joe; I have participated in interviews with Joe, and have heard him speak many times. And in all that time, his message never changed: it was always “academics before athletics”.

    I have seen All American football players riding the bench because of classroom problems. I have seen potential star players booted off the team for scholastic or legal shenanigans; and I have watched the annual parade of football players who not only graduated on time, but who graduated with some of the highest GPAs in all of Division 1 NCAA sports. Yes, there have been problems; no enterprise is perfect. But given the opportunity to correct those problems, Joe always acted with honor, following the values he espoused to his players and to the world around him.

    Louis Freeh, Mark Emmert and their ilk, including those who lied about or attacked Joe for his alleged “involvement” in the Sandusky mess, haven’t got a clue what Penn State is about or what Joe Paterno was about. They simply saw a chance to tear down an institution, and, as petty and mindless creatures often do, they leaped at this opportunity without any regard for the truth or for the effect their illicit and slanderous campaign would have on thousands of innocent people, young and old alike. They tried, but as we have seen over the past few months, the headline of the article above is true – they have been unable to cover up “success with honor”, despite their best efforts

    When the truth comes out, as it eventually does, those who attacked Joe or helped to spread the lies about him will be proven wrong. But “haters” often can’t be persuaded, so they will probably rationalize their hatred by accusing others of covering up for Joe. As if he needed it… rest in peace, Joe. WE still ARE trying to be what you wanted us to be. And that’s because of who you were.

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