Sunday, March 9 2014 8:35 PM EDT2014-03-10 00:35:58 GMT
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I've often said that even if you do a thousand wonderful things in your life, one huge mistake can permanently destroy your reputation. And there's no better example than former Penn State coach Joe Paterno.
By now, everyone knows about the allegations of child sexual abuse that were merely reported up the school's chain of command instead of to the police. And now that they've resulted in Paterno's downfall, he's acknowledged, "With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I'd done more."
But while hindsight can often give us the benefit of information we didn't originally have, this isn't one of those cases.
What does Paterno know now that he didn't then? The allegations were certainly clear -- and serious -- enough. Most responsible people would have notified the authorities, let them investigate, and made sure any guilty parties were banished from the program forever. That would not only have been the right thing to do, it would have enhanced Penn State's reputation.
Instead, the cover-up allowed more molestations to occur, and Penn State's image has been virtually destroyed.
Paterno didn't need hindsight. He needed an accurate moral compass to rely on when the charges were first brought to him, and he failed.
No one will ever take away Joe Paterno's football records. But he'll also never erase the black mark that now makes them all irrelevant.