Ever since the Paterno Report poked holes in the Freeh report (even Penn State sponsors such as Nike switch allegiances back to Paterno), the media has done little to clear the allegations they placed on Paterno. Now, CBS sports and Yahoo have found another way to demonize Paterno. They published the following about Joe Paterno correspondence with a former player about owing $12.99 in charges:
In this correspondence to a former player dated July 7, 1982, Paterno admonishes the player for not paying $12.99 in expenses incurred during Penn State road trips to Pitt and the 1982 Fiesta Bowl during the 1981 season. That '81 team finished 10-2, ranked No. 3 in AP, losing only to Miami and Alabama.
The outstanding charges -- according to Joe -- are for “phone calls, room service and miscellaneous charges.” No matter what you think of Paterno's legacy in light of the last couple of years, this letter obtained by CBSSports.com is a slice of Americana and Joe Paterno.
“Since you have finished up your eligibility,” Paterno wrote, “there is very little I can do to make you pay. But you will know and I will know that you owe the money, and when it comes to recommendations or use of our facilities, etc., I certainly feel that your cheating the University of money not due to you will have a bearing on our attitude.”
Joe Paterno was a man of principal. Let’s look at this from another perspective. The player that released this correspondence should be ashamed of himself. If he is unwilling to pay a 13 dollar bill, then what does this say about this person’s character? Does it say they are responsible and accountable for their actions? Does it say if they are unwilling to pay a 13 dollar bill then maybe they will try to finagle their way out of other more expensive bills? Maybe they will turn into a deadbeat who needs to be supported by fellow taxpayers.
To say Paterno was out of line or even imply he is cheap is outright wrong. Paterno gave his first 40 years of salary (out of 66 years) back to the university (over 5 million dollars). When Paterno was fired he was the second lowest paid head coach in the Big 10. He turned down the opportunity to coach the New England Patriots and become the first million dollar coach back in the 80s. Yes, Paterno may have been a man of principal and hold people accountable for their actions, but this does not make him cheap. This is the problem with our society today – we demonize the guy who is trying to hold people accountable for their actions.
The Freeh report portrayed Paterno as a man who put football and winning above the law. Paterno never had a NCAA violation against him for cheating in over 66 years. This is the same man who kicked their only long snapper off the team one season and replaced him with the undersized team manager. Paterno was a man of principal and that came before winning.
To make matters worse, all this demonizing of Paterno has come since he died and is no longer able to defend his name and reputation. I find this convenient.