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Berry Tramel: Penn State not quite in a Happy Valley

BERRY TRAMEL COMMENTARY — The scandal surrounding Penn State and its football program has to be the final straw that breaks the back of Joe Paterno's coaching career.
by Berry Tramel Published: November 8, 2011
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/articleid/3621389/1/pictures/1556760">Photo - Scott Paterno, left, looks on as students greet his father Penn State football coach Joe Paterno as he arrives at his home, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011, in State College, Pa. Paterno's support among the Penn State board of trustees was described as "eroding" Tuesday, threatening to end the 84-year-old coach's career amid a child sex-abuse scandal involving a former assistant and one-time heir apparent. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) ORG XMIT: PAMR127
Scott Paterno, left, looks on as students greet his father Penn State football coach Joe Paterno as he arrives at his home, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011, in State College, Pa. Paterno's support among the Penn State board of trustees was described as "eroding" Tuesday, threatening to end the 84-year-old coach's career amid a child sex-abuse scandal involving a former assistant and one-time heir apparent. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) ORG XMIT: PAMR127

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 btramel@opubco.com. 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.

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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