Now is the Time

Now is the Time

Once upon a time there was a man who devoted nearly his entire life to making a small town university great. This man, guided by his father’s instruction to “make an impact,” spent sixty-one years coaching football players into successful citizens. He won 409 games while conducting what he called a Grand Experiment. He proved the student athlete can be a student first, an athlete second, and still win football games. He built a library. He proved that the achievement gap between black athletes and white athletes can be closed. He walked all over town. He turned the popularity of a national championship football team into an effort to raise the bar on academics; he proved that a superior education and a number one football team exist symbiotically. He loved his family. He loved his players. He loved a university. He was honest, quirky, brilliant, loved.

He had the deeply unfortunate luck of having a sick, sick assistant coach who tarnished it all. He was fired, accused, used, scapegoated, silenced.

He was sadly lost to cancer, to heartbreaking circumstances. It happened at the wrong time. It was too soon. But the story couldn’t end.

It couldn’t end and it was stuck in limbo. I read somewhere recently about a play called Six Characters in Search of an Author. In it the characters come alive and attempt to write the end of the their dramatic plot. Though their story is nothing like ours, I imagine we feel a bit like these characters. Still in search of an author to conclude such an important, lengthy part of our history, the story of Penn State and Joe Paterno.

joe pa statueOn the two year anniversary of Coach Paterno’s passing, we are still struggling to move forward. Why? For two years we have held vigils, created memorials, left pictures and notes. We’ve joined almuni groups, we’ve spoken at board meetings, we’ve written editorials, we’ve blogged about it. For two years we’ve been met with silence at best and degradation at worst.

It’s not enough. We cannot move forward until we honor our past. It’s really that simple.

Now is the time for the university leadership to conclude this story. Now is the time for Joe Paterno to be honored for his sixty-one years of dedication and all of the ways he inspired Penn State and its hundreds of thousands of alumni and fans.

Penn State, you owe Coach Paterno a worthy tribute. You owe it to his family, the alumni, the fans, and to Coach Franklin. We deserve the opportunity to commemorate and move happily forward.

We have a new coach. We are starting a new chapter. Let’s not allow it to be hampered by our clinging to the past. You’ve got to close out one chapter before you start a new one. Now is the time for Penn State’s leadership to honor Coach Paterno’s life and career.

We cannot move forward until we honor our past. Now is the time.

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