It's neither likely nor reasonable that Penn State's Joe Paterno had never heard before 2002 allegations or rumors that former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was a pedophile.
If he didn't, then the legendary football coach is more out of touch with reality around him than he already tries to promote in passing the buck in the Sandusky arrest sexual abuse scandal.
But I'm not buying that.
It's virtually not possible that Paterno had never before heard the allegations or rumors. So when Paterno was approached iin 2002 by an assistant coach in alleging that he saw Sandusky, the former Penn State coach who still had access to the athletic department including workout and locker rooms, engaged in a sex act with a child, he should have done more than simply pass a report to the school's athletic director, Tim Curley.
That's what Paterno claims to have done, however. And thus Sandusky, if charges are correct, continued to operate as a sexual predator -- all the while Paterno kept marching along in his long career with the appearance that he is one of the good guys in coaching, a titan of winning and integrity.
On the field, Paterno may be a winner, but off the field he is not in regard to this incident. Paterno may not be guilty of a legal crime by not calling police in 2002, when told by an assistant that Sandusky was in the shower engaged in an inappropriate act with a 10-year-old boy. But he's certainly guilty of a moral crime.
Paterno should have called police, particularly since likeliness and reason suggest that Paterno knew the assistant's claim had merit. Anyone with credible evidence of sexual abuse of a child has only one legal choice -- calling authorities.
Here's what Paterno said about being notified by the assistant: It was obvious the witness was distraught over what he saw, but he at no time related to me the very specific actions contained in the grand jury report. Regardless, it was clear that the witness saw something inappropriate involving Mr. Sandusky.
Inappropriate is the key. It's not a word casually tossed around by someone distraught.
So let's do the math. Assuming that Paterno had heard rumors or allegations about Sandusky before -- which must be true, unless Paterno was totally out of touch with his surroundings -- the fact that it was obvious the assistant coach was distraught by what he saw, and that it was stated as inappropriate, adds up that Paterno should have sounded an appropriate alarm.
He should have called authorities.
But he didn't. Instead, he notified Penn State's director of athletics. And authorities now allege that in the years that followed, Sandusky continued as a predator.
Woe is me, Joe. You should have done better.
Paterno, 84, is already well past his time of retirement. And he would be wise to take it now. If not, Penn State should force the coach immediately out for the moral crime. He knew there was a major problem involving Sandusky and potential sexual abuse, but he acted with a weak unsatisfactory response when responsibility was placed in his hands.
It will be a tough way to end a long career, but Paterno has certainly learned over the years that you can't win them all. And in the Sandusky case, he comes up a loser.