Tags: Joe Paterno | Penn State firing | governor | Tom Corbett

Pa. Gov. Corbett: Firing Joe Paterno Was a Mistake

By    |   Friday, 07 November 2014 07:44 PM

Firing legendary college football coach Joe Paterno in connection with a child sex abuse scandal at Pennsylvania State University was "probably" the wrong call, outgoing Gov. Tom Corbett — who launched the initial probe as state attorney general — told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Paterno, who died of cancer in January 2012 at age 85, should have been suspended, not fired, in 2011 by the university's board of trustees, and been allowed to coach the remaining few games of the season, Corbett told the Inquirer on Thursday, two days after losing his re-election bid.

In what the Inquirer called Corbett's "most expansive comments" on the scandal since it broke wide open in 2011, the former prosecutor said that Paterno "technically complied with the law" in dealing with an assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, who would later be convicted of sexually abusing young boys.

The board fired Paterno and the university's president, Graham Spanier, after an internal investigation conducted by former FBI Director Louis Freeh charged, in a damning published report, that both men willfully ignored evidence of Sandusky's predatory behavior.

At the time Corbett said, "The actions, or the failure to act, while maybe not criminal, caused me not to have confidence in the president and in the coach."

The scandal befell a head coach known for his strong Catholic faith and his belief in football as a means of building character in his young players. It also cost Penn State a number of athletic scholarships and the right — recently restored — to play in the post-season.

The Inquirer described Corbett's remarks on Thursday as "a softening of his stance on the case and new ammunition for those who for years have assailed the trustees and Corbett … for blaming and firing Paterno."

Some called the governor's new thinking too little, too late.

"Revelations like this would have been meaningful three years ago, before the patently false narrative about Joe Paterno was cemented in minds across America," said Maribeth Roman Schmidt, a member of Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship.

Almost 40 percent of voters in exit polls on Tuesday said they considered Corbett's handling of the investigation a very or somewhat important to their decision, although Corbett himself had already decided to avoid the subject on the campaign trail.

"There was no winning this battle with those who are fervently of the belief that I did what they believe I did," he told the Inquirer.

Paterno's firing was a humiliating end to a distinguished, decades-long career in which he joined a handful of other collegiate coaches such as Bear Bryant, also in football, and John Wooden, in basketball, as figures who transcended their games and their schools.

Some critics of the firing accused Corbett and the trustees of hastening Paterno's death.

"When people say that, they are obviously looking for someone to blame," said Corbett.

"They're angry. And I understand being angry. But the person they should be angry at is Sandusky. He's the one who betrayed Paterno, the administration, the football team, the university, and all the fans."

Sandusky is serving a prison sentence of at least 30 years. Spanier and three other fired Penn State administrators are awaiting trial in connection with the case.

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Firing legendary college football coach Joe Paterno in connection with a child sex abuse scandal at Pennsylvania State University was "probably" the wrong call, outgoing Gov. Tom Corbett told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Joe Paterno, Penn State firing, governor, Tom Corbett
Friday, 07 November 2014 07:44 PM
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