Joe Paterno’s Wins Restored

A victory for evil.

Image: Joe Paterno

The NCAA has restored Joe Paterno as the winningest coach in big-time college football history and otherwise overturned the sanctions in the Jerry Sandusky rape cover-up.

ESPN (“Joe Paterno is now winningest coach“):

Penn State’s football team is getting back 112 wins wiped out during the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal and the late Joe Paterno has been restored as the winningest coach in major college football history.

The NCAA announced the new settlement with the school weeks before a scheduled trial on the legality of the 2012 consent decree it will replace.

The new deal also directs a $60 million fine to address child abuse be spent within Pennsylvania and resolves that lawsuit.

The NCAA board of governors approved the settlement, said association spokesman Bob Williams. The Penn State board approved it Friday afternoon.

The announcement follows the NCAA’s decision last year to reinstate the school’s full complement of football scholarships and let Penn State participate in post-season play, and comes just days after a federal judge declined to rule on the consent decree’s constitutionality.

The NCAA said continuing the litigation would only delay the distribution of funds to sex abuse survivors.

“While others will focus on the return of wins, our top priority is on protecting, educating and nurturing young people,” said Harris Pastides, University of South Carolina president and member of the NCAA board.

The consent decree sprung from the scandal that erupted when Sandusky, a retired football assistant coach, was accused of sexually abusing boys, some of them on Penn State’s campus.

It had eliminated all wins from 1998 — when police investigated a mother’s complaint that Sandusky had showered with her son — through 2011, Paterno’s final season as head coach after six decades with the team and the year Sandusky was charged.

In September, the NCAA announced it was ending the school’s ban on post-season play and restored its full complement of football scholarships earlier than scheduled.

The restored wins include 111 under Paterno, who died in 2012, and the final victory of 2011, when the team was coached by defensive coach Tom Bradley. It returns Paterno’s record to 409-136-3.

Now that Paterno’s wins have been restored, some may wonder if his statue will return to campus. The nearly 7-foot tall, more than 900 pound statue was removed in 2012, but a source told ESPN’s Joe Schad that no decision has been made on the restoration of the statue and a decision is not imminent.

While I thought stripping the school—and Paterno—of the wins for transgressions that had next to no impact on Penn State’s on-field competitiveness was both harsh and nonsensical when levied, I’m rather befuddled by the overturning here. Penn State signed a consent decree, meaning they agreed to the penalties in lieu of potentially harsher ones, including the so-called “death penalty.” Now, they’re essentially getting off Scot-free for some pretty serious violations. (I actually thought the death penalty more appropriate, in that it punished the school where it hurt: the ability to make millions of dollars playing football.)

The 2012 consent decree was signed by Penn State’s then-president, Rodney Erickson, a month after a jury convicted Sandusky and shortly after former FBI director Louis Freeh released the scathing results of a university-commissioned investigation into the Sandusky matter.

Its unprecedented penalties drew heated and sustained opposition by Penn State alumni and fans who argued the Freeh report was factually incorrect, defended Paterno’s handling of the Sandusky scandal, noted it punished people who had nothing to do with Sandusky and said that the school’s athletics program had been considered a national model.

In recent months, emails and other documents have been attached to court filings by the NCAA and the plaintiffs, state Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman and state Treasurer Rob McCord.

In one, an NCAA official described its pursuit of the penalties as “a bluff” and said asserting jurisdiction would be “a stretch.” Other records documented that Penn State narrowly avoided a multi-year “death penalty” which would have suspended the college football powerhouse from playing at all.

Corman signed off on the proposal, the senator said at a news conference in Harrisburg.

“The fact of the matter was, an evil predator operated in our community for years and everyone missed it,” Corman said. “The NCAA has surrendered. The agreement we reached represents a complete victory for the issue at hand.”

It’s certainly true that this is a “complete victory” for Paterno and the University. As to the “issue at hand,” the reason “an evil predator operated in our community for years and everyone missed it” was because Paterno and the leadership at Penn State were cowards and scoundrels who cared more for the reputation of their football program than for the boys they allowed be raped for years. This is, therefore, a complete victory for evil.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts, Sports, , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Davebo says:

    A victory for evil.

    Which to a great extent is represented by Paterno’s family which has not looked good throughout all of this.

    To say nothing of the die hard Penn State Alumni, many of whom have downplayed the seriousness of the scandal in blind support of the program.

  2. Now, they’re essentially getting off Scot-free for some pretty serious violations.

    Well, if you consider the entire administration being dismissed and possibly going to jail and the school paying out $120 million to be “scot-free”.

    The problem is that while it’s clear there were egregious legal violations, it’s not clear their were any NCAA violations. The NCAA didn’t help their case either when they, as they have in a number of high profile investigations, completely abandoned their own process, seemingly more interested in looking good in front of the press instead of doing a thorough job. Mark Emmert’s career as NCAA president continues to be a train wreck.

  3. Mikey says:

    How long did it take you to find that fantastic photo of Paterno looking like a cross between Mr. Burns (The Simpsons) and Satan?

  4. Modulo Myself says:

    I think taking away the wins was a way to shame Penn State for its veneration of Paterno. The veneration hasn’t stopped. Many PSU people believe he never knew about Sandusky; so in the end, it’s pointless. Anyone who feels better now that Paterno has more wins is a pathetic fool anyway.

    But why is this more evil than letting Cheney and Bush walk around free?

  5. Pinky says:

    Negating the wins was always stupid, and I’m glad to see it thrown out.

    I only read about half of the Freeh report. If it was analogous to a criminal complaint, I don’t think the prosecution ever made the case. Since it wasn’t a criminal complaint, and I wasn’t on a jury or anything, I didn’t feel guilty tossing aside the document when it started getting repetitious. It just seemed padded, like they were covering for a lack of evidence.

    It looked to me more like Paterno was just sort of coasting during his last few years, and while he didn’t pounce on the accusations the way he should have, we don’t really know how they were presented to him.

  6. Modulo Myself says:


    Paterno was told directly that Sandusky had raped a child.

  7. Butch Bracknell says:

    Please, please, please, for the love of God — don’t take the Bush-Cheney bait. This has nothing to do with them.

  8. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Unrelated FYI, for the benefit of those who have been following this issue:

    SCOTUS today granted certiorari to four 6th Circuit SSM cases, which they have consolidated for hearing.

    Interestingly, the court has limited the grant of cert to two strictly 14th Amendment questions. Stay tuned folks – it’s about to get entertaining.

  9. @Modulo Myself:

    Paterno was told directly that Sandusky had raped a child.

    This has become less certain as the person who witnessed it, Mike McQuery, keeps changing his story about what exactly he witnessed and what he told other people about it.

  10. ernieyeball says:
  11. @Stormy Dragon:

    By way of example, Sandusky ended up being convicted on 45 counts of a 48 count indictment. The three counts he was acquitted on were the three related to the event McQueary witnessed.

  12. Trumwill says:

    Vacating wins, especially when the infractions did not involve cheating, is dumb.

    I’m annoyed that the NCAA repeatedly lightens punishment when the news ruckus dies down, but not in this case.

  13. Hal_10000 says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    No, this was precisely the problem. It was a game of telephone. Paterno was told that Sandusky was doing something of a sexual nature. Paterno told the AD that it was something improper. The AD told the President that it was horseplay. This is from the Grand Jury investigation, that the crime got diminished each time it was told. This is why the University changed the rules so that witness are now required to report directly to CPS, not to their superiors and through them to campus security, who then decide whether or not to report it.

  14. ernieyeball says:

    This is, therefore, a complete victory for evil.

    Pleased to meet you
    Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
    But what’s confusing you Is just the nature of my game
    Just as every cop is a criminal And all the sinners saints
    As heads is tails Just call me Lucifer
    Cause I’m in need of some restraint
    So if you meet me Have some courtesy
    Have some sympathy, and some taste
    Use all your well-learned politesse
    Or I’ll lay your soul to waste, um yeah
    Pleased to meet you Hope you guessed my name, um yeah
    But what’s puzzling you Is the nature of my game,..

  15. Hal_10000 says:

    @Trumwill: I think the NCAA should end all their attempts at revisionist history. That would include restoring USC’s wins and Bush’s Heisman. Bowls suspensions, loss of scholarships, fines, etc. are appropriate punishments. Ham-fisted Stalinist revisions of the past aren’t.

  16. Trumwill says:

    @Hal_10000: I largely agree. For two reasons:

    1) You can’t undo what’s done. Joe Paterno was the winningest coach in history prior to today. Anything else was pretending. Ditto for USC’s national championship**. They won what they won.

    2) It gives the appearance of harshness when, in fact, it’s not actually doing much of anything. See #1. It seems like it’s an opportunity to avoid more substantive punishment.

    If you want to freak programs out, be harsh in ways that really matter: Going forward. Reduce scholarships (and actually follow through on the reductions), place coaches on “Show cause” probation, and allow all players (at least, those not guilty of anything) the ability to transfer without losing a year. Don’t pretend what actually happened didn’t actually happen.

    * – And the logic regarding Paterno is, as I mentioned, particularly tortured, since cheating was not alleged.

    ** – In the specific case of USC, there is actually an argument to be made that the national title should go to Auburn, which was also worthy but was left out of the title game. That’s not typical, though.

  17. MikeSJ says:

    It looks like there will be a trial for the past president of Penn State – Graham Spanier – and some of his top honcho’s.

    I hope that these moral degenerates get serious hard time. In the big house. Not some yuppie country club prison.

    Here’s hoping. If I sound cynical about this it’s because too often there’s a separate criminal justice code for the wealthy and connected.

  18. Pinky says:

    That’ll teach Bobby Bowden!

  19. wr says:

    @Butch Bracknell: “Please, please, please, for the love of God — don’t take the Bush-Cheney bait. This has nothing to do with them.”

    True. I’m sure it’s a good reason to impeach Obama, though!

  20. Mumbles says:

    I disagreed with invalidating the wins as well…but because it was trivial. If the guys on the team won, then that’s that.

    Really, Paterno was an assessory to child rape. Really, that should be a crime.

  21. Console says:

    You guys going to talk about the NCAA championship game so we can all make fun of Doug’s ridiculous contrarian instincts?

  22. Modulo Myself says:


    Right, Paterno was just a cog in the system at Penn State. Once he spoke, there was nothing he could do except sit back and allow for the process to work! Honestly, that people really need to cast this in terms of a problem of procedure, as if that’s what failed, is disturbing. The only person who gets to do that is Paterno, if he were alive. He, at least, has his own moral failings to defend. But I really don’t get the rest of you. Making it sound like Paterno consulted his lawyer after hearing about a child rape makes him look just as bad as if he just decided to favor his program over an endless list of assaulted children.

    Nb–I grew up in Pennsylvania and since this occurred have been exposed via Facebook to a thousand insane defenses of someone who once coached a popular football team.

    The reason I mentioned Bush and Cheney is because James was pretty cool with excusing those two walking over torture because of blah blah blah. He probably needs to call Paterno evil in order to prove to himself his own moral worth because of all the s–t he has to spew for other predators and torturers.

  23. C. Clavin says:

    Paterno wins…the boys who were raped…not so much.

  24. C. Clavin says:

    Pinky is OK with raping children.
    If the Catholic Church can do it…why not???

  25. Tyrell says:

    @Modulo Myself: Bush and Cheney: I did not vote for them. But after 9/11, I and most Americans wanted our leaders, Republican and Democrat, to go after those responsible . The attitude and feeling was “just do it”. And I remember that they were re-elected with a pretty good majority. So let’s not get into any talk of putting any of the leaders of this country on trial.

  26. ernieyeball says:

    @Tyrell: So let’s not get into any talk of putting any of the leaders of this country on trial.

    Just which Department of the Ministry of Truth do you work for? Ficdep?

  27. Tony W says:

    I get the “scot free” comment. Financial penalties only for this crime would be unheard of if Paterno owned a pizza joint and Sandusky raped a kid in the back room. Because these guys are football legends the normally tough-on-crime crowd becomes their chief apologists.

    I love football, but frankly I don’t get the whole college football industry. That’s not what college is for, in my opinion, and it’s a big distraction from the strong liberal arts education we should be giving our kids.

  28. Crusty Dem says:

    If you think it’s reasonable to be told your employee was performing “sexual activities with children” (mildest conceivable description) at the workplace you manage and do nothing about it, you are a monster. Somehow the management (Paterno) decided to let him quit, kept him from getting other coaching jobs (by calling other U administrators) , but still allowed him full access to all PSU events and facilities, which he used to find more children to abuse.


    Fwiw, I agree that vacating wins (or not) is largely meaningless. The only reasonable response to this debacle was the death penalty. The NCAA views the largest offense as “loss of institutional control”, I can’t imagine a larger loss than top U administration conspiring to hide child molestation. Emmert completely failed his responsibility, but as anyone who saw him at UW would agree, that’s at best a mild surprise…

  29. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    @C. Clavin: Congratulations. You’ve managed to join Pinky regarding the quality of comments. That was despicable.

  30. JKB says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    So in your view, Joe Paterno was not a winning football coach who strode across the Penn State campus as a god, but rather just an ineffectual bureaucrat?

    Still the win revision was idiotic. An appropriate solution would be simply modify the statue they removed to add a small naked boy on the ground beseeching Paterno as he his trod over by the football players behind Paterno. That would be true monument to Paterno’s career and Penn State football during his tenure.

  31. Pinky says:

    @JKB: I think Modulo was saying the exact opposite.

  32. @Tony W:

    I see it kind of like OJ Simpson case. I think Paterno could have done more than he did and should have been held accountable, but the NCAA and the state of Pennsylvania have so thoroughly bungled the response to the scandal that it will be nearly impossible to prove that in any legitimate trial.

  33. Tyrell says:

    @Tony W: Its not just college. It is seen in a lot of areas with local school and sports programs. Around here a rec game will have 200 or more show up, while a school parent-teacher meeting is lucky to get two dozen. Priorities. Then there is the Super Bowl industry, which we will leave for another time. (it usually isn’t so super)

  34. Fog says:

    Hey, I have an novel idea! Why don’t we all wait until the trials of Spanier , et al, unfold so we can have goofy shit like actual testimony and evidence to discuss?
    Until then, a lot of what I see here is speculation – AKA uninformed, lazy BS.

  35. Barry says:

    James: ” Now, they’re essentially getting off Scot-free for some pretty serious violations. ”

    From the viewpoint of the fans, losing is the only serious violation; from the viewpoint of the NCAA, only things affecting their money (e.g., an athlete shockingly being bought a lunch by a booster!!!!!!!) is serious.

    Others, please note that if Paterno was told that ‘something of a sexual nature’ had taken place between Sandusky and a child, that’s enough. Also, Paterno was the highest-paid employee of the state of Pennsylvania; unless the world works quite differently from how I think it does, that means that he wasn’t dumb, and was only ignorant when that was desirable.

  36. Barry says:

    @Tyrell: “…to go after those responsible .”

    Which didn’t include Saddam Hussein, nor 400-600K people in Iraq.