About 2,000 Penn State students turned violent over the news that Penn State football coach Joe Paterno was fired on Wednesday night.
The students marched into downtown State College after the Penn State Board of Trustees fired both Paterno and president Graham Spanier, chanting “We want Joe!” Police officers were forced to use pepper spray to subdue the crowd.
Both Paterno and Spanier have been at the center of controversy since reports surfaced over the way the two handled allegations of an assistant coach molesting eight boys over a 15-year period.
Overall, it’s a sad situation for everyone involved. But the riot was just another public relations nightmare in a school that has had nothing but over the past few days.
There is simply no excuse for that kind of behavior when you think of these things:
* This isn’t about football. The stretch and reach of this extends to the moral fabric of our being. Paterno was fired because he was involved in a systematic failure across Penn State in notifying the proper authorities about a heinous crime that had been committed. Paterno was in charge of a man who was committing a serious crime, and although he didn’t commit that crime, he failed to pursue the right course of action.
* Back in 2004, when Penn State was mired in one of its worst seasons as it stumbled to a 4-7 season, there were serious calls for Paterno to retire. After all, according to the critics, Paterno was too old to continue being a successful coach. Yet, in a season when Penn State is 8-1, and has a clear shot at a BCS game, there is a sudden outcry of unwavering support among those rioters? Is being 8-1 more important than a child molestation scandal?
* Some of the outrage appeared to stem from Paterno being fired over the phone. In the greatest piece of irony, it was one phone call that could’ve averted this situation. All Paterno needed to do was call 911 when it was obvious this matter wasn’t being handled properly.
Students were also chanting “We are Penn State!” during their march. That isn’t something I’d freely admit right now.