I am not a sports fan, but perhaps this gives me the same kind of useful outsider’s perspective that non-Catholics had on the sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic church.
The similarities in the two situations are, I hope, obvious. One man sexually abuses children; another man, or men, enable the serial predation by choosing to preserve the reputation of the institution rather than report the behavior to the police and take other steps to stop the offender; until finally some brave soul takes the steps necessary to initiate an investigation, and it all comes out.
There is not just one locus of guilt here; there are two, or possibly three. The persons entrusted with institutional authority in the Catholic church have thus far failed miserably at going past the first locus and accepting responsibility for their culpability in enabling the ongoing abuse of children: instead, they have scapegoated the abusive priests, talking in shocked tones of the “filth” they are outraged to find in the priesthood, as if the abuse by priests could have happened on such a large scale without the effective complicity of bishops who chose to protect the church’s reputation rather than the church’s children; and without the effective complicity of everyone else who knew or suspected what was going on, but also chose, either to value reputation over children, or simply obedience to authority.
You have successfully avoided the first part of that trap, by correctly identifying Paterno’s complicity in enabling Sandusky’s abuse. But be careful you don’t succumb to the same pattern at only one remove. If you make Paterno the scapegoat for the entire coverup, then you’ll have missed the opportunity to confront the systemic problem — the systemic sin, in theological terms — that plagued Penn State and, by some accounts, the entire town in which it lives. If you scapegoat Paterno, then you provide a mechanism that the athletics program, the board of regents, the university community, the police department, the department of Child Protective Services, the teachers, the neighbors, everyone who knew or suspected that something might be wrong can use to absolve themselves of responsibility (“it was Paterno’s fault, he should have said something”) or simply to ignore their own culpability as they join in the communal outrage around Paterno.
You have an opportunity here to do better than the Catholic Church has done. And it’s easier for you, because even the most devout football fans, at the end of the day, have to admit that football is only a game.
You have an opportunity here. Don’t blow it.