Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno has been the subject of a lot of scrutiny over the last few days.
When news initially broke of the alleged sexual molestation charges -- that have already cost two high-ranked school officials their jobs -- involving former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, one of the most curious subplots was how it would impact Paterno and his legacy. After all, according to court documents, Paterno had been made aware that alleged sexual abuse of a child had occurred at least once on school property, and he opted to report it to school officials rather than to police. He also, apparently, never followed up on the matter.
Now, in the coaching legend’s defense, he has issued a statement vehemently denying that he had gotten any specifics regarding the alleged molestation scandal. Rather, he expressed that the only thing he knew was that a former defensive coordinator had acted inappropriately.
Whether or not that passes the smell test is for each and every person who reads that statement and the court documents to decide for themselves.
Despite all of the scrutiny being lobbed in Paterno’s direction these days, though, the longtime college football legend appears to have an ally in Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini. The Huskers, of course, are slated to take on Penn State this weekend in a battle that may ultimately decide whether they can live to fight another day for the Big Ten crown.
"I have so much respect for him," Pelini said of the man his team will be dueling against this weekend. "He isn't just a great coach, but a classy individual and it has been an honor meeting him and getting a chance to know him.
"He obviously is wired a little different than me," he said. "I couldn't do it that long. It is an amazing thing because it takes a lot of energy and hours. It wears on you. For him to do it at his age, it is a pretty amazing thing."
Pelini spoke fondly of the way that Paterno embraced him when Nebraska announced its move from the Big 12 into the Big Ten.
"He told me he was happy that he had another Italian in the Big Ten," Pelini said. "That was a positive as far as he was concerned. I have a step up on some other guys because my last name has a vowel at the end."
The addition of Nebraska, of course, meant that Paterno and his Penn State teams now had to overcome additional obstacles en route to a title in the already strenuous Big Ten. Still, the coaching legend appeared to take it all in good humor – something that Pelini clearly appreciated.
Although he never specifically got around to confronting the allegations facing his counterpart, Pelini’s nonstop praise of Paterno was an unmistakable sign of allegiance to the latter coach. A man as principled as Pelini would never idly support or emptily compliment someone who he didn’t believe was a good person.
It’s hard to predict where the Penn State story will go from here, but for now, Paterno and the players will have to block out all the noise and focus on the task at hand – winning games.
Will Nebraska ultimately be able to capitalize on their opponent's distracted state this Saturday?
We’ll find out soon enough.