Berry Tramel: Penn State not quite in a Happy Valley
Happy Valley, they call it. State College. An idyllic college town in the Pennsylvania hills.
Never been, myself, but thousands upon thousands have and came away with the same report.
Pleasantville. A black-and-white world that never changed, from the football uniforms of the local college to the name on the football coach's office to the general belief that this magical hamlet had found a way to stare down time.
But if you saw “Pleasantville,” you know things can't stay the same. And things have changed in the valley once was known as Happy.
Penn State's innocence is gone. Joe Paterno's reputation is in tatters.
College football knows scandal. Scam Newton was a scandal. Reggie Bush was a scandal. Hart Lee Dykes was a scandal.
Penn State is not scandal. Criminal charges against former Nittany defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky for repeated child-sex abuse? That's not scandal. That's profanity.
The school's long-time trinity of Paterno, athletic director Tim Curley and president Graham Spanier knowing of the allegations nine years ago and doing nothing? That's not scandal. That's immoral.
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This has to be the end of the most remarkable coaching career in American history. I don't mean after a bowl game. I don't mean after the Big Ten championship game. I don't mean after Penn State's regular-season finale at Wisconsin.
I mean now. Curley, charged with perjury, already has been stripped of his duties. How can Penn State leaders – if there are any left in State College – allow Spanier to preside or Paterno to coach?
How can Penn State allow Paterno to address his team in practice? How can Penn State allow Paterno to run through the Beaver Stadium tunnel with his team Saturday as the Nittany Lions play Nebraska?
Evidence is mounting that a Paterno lieutenant raped little boys, and when another Paterno staff member alerted his boss, Paterno had two reasonable options. Form a posse or call the cops.
Paterno did neither. He passed the info along the Penn State food chain, which is circular, like most big-time football powers. Who answers to who isn't exactly clear.
We wanted to believe the Paterno legend. Wanted to believe that a Happy Valley did exist. That Penn State somehow was different. That a man who showed up in 1950 and became head coach in 1966 could still run a program above reproach. Even sport an 8-1 record and the No. 12 national ranking here 12 seasons into the 21st century.
And we were right. Penn State is different. Beneath the façade of Pleasantville lived a culture so heinous that it put football consistency over the welfare of little boys.
The Miami pirate ship. The Oklahoma crime spree under Barry Switzer. Not even the Dave Bliss/Baylor basketball atrocity approaches Penn State for its inhumanity.
This is classic behavior for institutional corruption. Penn State seems no different from the Catholic priest sex-abuse cases. Forget the victims. Protect the church, protect the university.
Twenty-six years ago, a national championship Orange Bowl matched coaches with opposite reputations. Saint Paterno and the villainous Switzer.
A few years earlier, Paterno had said he wouldn't retire and “leave college football to the Jackie Sherrills and Barry Switzers of the world.” Paterno apologized to Switzer but not to Sherrill.
Now there can be no qualifiers. It's time for Paterno to leave, no matter who is left behind.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.