Under the Hat: The Final Lesson - WICU12 HD WSEE Erie, PA News, Sports, Weather, Events

Under the Hat: The Final Lesson

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My old man is from the same generation as Joe Paterno, and he always liked the way the man coached.

Plain uniforms with no names and hard nose football; no cutting classes boys.

Dad loved it when Paterno made the entire team clean the stadium bleachers early Sunday morning after a few team members got into a bar fight Saturday night.

You win as a team, you lose as a team and you screw up as a team, too.

Like many national media events, it's hard to see the truth through the hype this week in the wake of Paterno's death.

The certificate says he died of complications from lung cancer.

There are those who are insisting, he died of a broken heart.

And indeed the end came swiftly in the wake of the sex abuse scandal around former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, particularly for a man known for his health and vigor even well into his eighties.

Paterno first heard about the allegations three years after Sandusky retired and reported them to his superiors the next day.

But he did little to follow up.

That hardly makes him a monster but it does make him part of the conspiracy of silence that it eventually took a grand jury to bring out into the open.

So while I disagree with those looking to vilify the coach I also disagree with those clamoring over the unfairness of it all.

You can argue over the method in which it was done but there's little doubt in my mind that the University needs a clean start and that means a new leader in the football program.

There are many facets to the Paterno saga; everything from the ongoing stigma of sexual abuse to the extraordinary power wielded by Division One coaches in major college athletics.

But to watch his wife Sue during the memorial was to see real grief, and it brought home the fact that under all the attention was a kid from Brooklyn who used football as the path to raise a family, mold the lives of young men and realize his American dream.

The hope is that part of Paterno's legacy will be to teach institutions across the country that the only way to handle these situations is directly, immediately and openly.

That could turn out to be the Coach's final lesson for us all.

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