Should Joe Paterno Survive Penn State’s Child Sex Abuse Scandal?

Football head coach Paterno, of all people, was never supposed to go out like this

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Scott Audette / Reuters

Penn State head coach Joe Paterno

Sure, it’s not easy to call the cops on someone you know. But Paterno must think McQueary, a former Penn State quarterback, was credible. If he didn’t, McQueary would not be on the Penn State staff. The fact that McQueary’s eyewitness account involved a shred of inappropriate contact between Sandusky and a minor mandated Paterno to act, whether or not Sandusky was a friend or just a former co-worker. Let the cops figure out if Sandusky should be punished.

Even worse, neither Paterno nor anyone else at Penn State had the decency to try to identify the child who was allegedly abused. They did nothing to help someone who may have suffered the worst possible crime within their own doors. What’s more heartbreaking, and enraging, than that?

After the alleged incident, Sandusky was still afforded unfettered access to the Penn State football program and its facilities. According to the grand jury report, Curley and Schultz prohibited Sandusky only from bringing children on campus. A Yahoo! Sports report said Sandusky was spotted working out in the Penn State weight room just last week, which is incredible, since Penn State leaders — Paterno, Curley, university president Graham Spanier — were aware of the criminal investigation. They all testified in front of a grand jury. How could they let Sandusky hang around? Wouldn’t they consider the risk that he might abuse again?

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Paterno, of all people, was never supposed to go out like this. Sports scandals rarely hold much shock value anymore. When Tiger Woods was caught cheating on his spouse, was it all that surprising? He’s a billionaire athlete, on the road many weeks out of the year. People have long suspected that Lance Armstrong took performance-enhancing drugs. If that were the case, well, everyone else was doing it during the grueling Tour de France.

Paterno was almost beyond reproach. Sure, some people in State College have thought that aging “JoePa,” though a lovable, benevolent patriarch, has lost his touch. That he should finally step aside and let a younger, more energetic voice guide the Nittany Lions into the 21st century.

Now when we see Paterno coaching up in the press box this Saturday during Penn State’s home finale against Nebraska (in the preseason, a player accidentally ran into him on the practice field, injuring his hip and pelvis, which has made it uncomfortable for him to stand), we won’t be thinking about football. We’ll be thinking about all the alleged abuses. What did Paterno really know? If these charges are true, how can we ever view him in the same light again? Who cares about all the wins? We’re not talking about a recruiting violation here. We’re talking about an unspeakable violation to innocent children.

We don’t see how Joe Paterno can still coach.

Sean Gregory is a staff writer at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @seanmgregory. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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