LJWorld.com weblogs Tale of the Tait
With Penn State mess making national news, Gill says protocol in place at KU is clearly defined
It’s become the story of the century in college football and, for better or for worse, will end the long and storied career of Penn State coaching legend Joe Paterno.
Surely, by now, you’ve heard at least some of the details surrounding the horrific story about former Paterno assistant Jerry Sandusky, who, over the weekend, was charged with 40 criminal counts of molesting eight young boys from 1994 through 2009.
At the epicenter of the allegations and the dark cloud hanging over Paterno is an incident from 2002 in the PSU locker room in which Sandusky was caught engaging in improper acts by a Penn State graduate assistant. The coach informed Paterno about what he saw and Paterno then informed Penn State athletic director Tim Curley. No further action was taken and the authorities were not notified.
Therein lies the problem. Today, as Paterno’s legacy hangs in the balance, the debate rages about whether he acted properly. Hundreds, if not thousands, lie on each side of the debate, with many Penn State students and fans showing their support for their beloved head coach and the rest of the world seemingly throwing up its hands in disgust.
Some say Paterno did all that he was required to do and argue that passing the buck to his superiors was the proper move. The Paterno apologists go on to emphasize that the role of head football coach should not and does not include the requirement to be judge, jury and executioner.
Others say Paterno’s decision to basically ignore such heinous acts was pathetic and that he was morally — if not legally — bound to report the criminal activity to the authorities and not just his boss.
While there is no connection between this story and Kansas University, KU football coach Turner Gill was asked about it during his news conference on Tuesday. Gill said the procedure for how to handle any wrongdoings — big or small — within the KU football program was clearly outlined.
“They come and tell myself,” Gill said. “I always tell them that you go to the protocol. As for the players, in most cases, you tell your position coach, you tell your coordinator and then you tell the head coach. Obviously, they can go above that if something’s very, very serious, but you go tell somebody.”
Gill continued: “We give them a list of phone numbers of just about everybody in the athletic department and there is a protocol that we explain to our players, staff, everybody, about anything. We’re not just talking about things of that magnitude, but the main thing, in general, is talk to someone. I’ve told our whole team that, whatever you do, promise me that you won’t isolate yourself.”
Sandusky’s role in all of this is crystal clear. He has been caught and he will be punished, most likely to the fullest extent the law allows.
However, Paterno’s role continues to be one of the most polarizing things I’ve seen in some time. There are those who say Paterno, 84, who has been the head coach at Penn State since 1965, should be punished severely for his role and that he should not coach another game.
Paterno, Wednesday morning, issued a statement announcing that he would retire at the end of the season. Below is the statement, but whether Paterno is allowed to finish the season remains very much in doubt.
"I am absolutely devastated by the developments in this case. I grieve for the children and their families, and I pray for their comfort and relief," Paterno said in a statement released just after initial reports of his pending retirement.
"I have come to work every day for the last 61 years with one clear goal in mind: To serve the best interests of this university and the young men who have been entrusted to my care. I have the same goal today.
"That's why I have decided to announce my retirement effective at the end of this season. At this moment the Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status. They have far more important matters to address. I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can.
"This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more. My goals now are to keep my commitments to my players and staff and finish the season with dignity and determination. And then I will spend the rest of my life doing everything I can to help this university."