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News Nearby: Franco Harris Again Comes to the Defense of the Late Paterno

In an open letter, Harris writes that the NCAA president was wrong in including Paterno on his list of coaches fired for misdeeds.

Pittsburgh Steelers great and PSU alumni Franco Harris is again coming to the defense of the late Penn State football coaching legend Joe Paterno, whose career ended with the . 

In an open letter, Harris blasts NCAA President Mark Emmert for making, in his opinion, a misleading, damaging and untrue statement by including Joe Paterno on his list of coaches that were fired for “misdeeds.”

"Mr. Emmert should know that before you bunch everyone together and pass judgment, you must first get all the facts and the truth about each one. Obviously, he didn’t," Harris wrote.

Harris refers to statements Emmert made in an Associated Press article.

In the article, Emmert said, “You’re seeing boards of directors, of trustees, and presidents and athletic directors saying ‘You know you’ve done a great job here. We love you. We pay you really well. You get all this adoration. You’ve got to live by the rules.’” Emmert goes on to say, “And that’s a good thing.”

Coaches such as Joe Paterno (Penn State), Jim Tressel (Ohio State), Bobby Petrino (Arkansas), Butch Davis (North Carolina) and Bruce Pearl (Tennessee) in the past had been considered "untouchable," Emmert said.

Harris wrote that he is "very disappointed" in Emmert and the NCAA for taking such a position against Paterno "in essence becoming the judge, jury and executioner."

"But this should come as no surprise to those who know the NCAA," Harris wrote.

Paterno had served as Penn State’s head coach since 1966 before he was fired amidst the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal. Although Paterno was never charged with any crimes in the scandal, the Penn State Board of Trustees decided he did not do enough to prevent the abuses alleged to have occurred under his watch. 

Many came to Paterno’s defense, but no one more vocal than Hall of Fame running back Harris, who made headlines for telling numerous media outlets that he planned to travel to State College to ask school officials to reinstate Paterno as head coach.

Because of his vigorous defense, Harris was promptly fired from The Meadows Racetrack & Casino team.  joined  in September to help with philanthropy and advertising efforts. 

 

What do you think? Is Harris right in defending the late Paterno? Should he continue to speak out or remain silent on the matter?  

Read the full statement below: 

NCAA President Mark Emmert has made a misleading, damaging and untrue statement (AP) when he included Joe Paterno on his list of coaches that were fired for “misdeeds.” Mr. Emmert should know that before you bunch everyone together and pass judgment, you must first get all the facts and the truth about each one. Obviously, he didn’t.

“You’re seeing boards of directors, of trustees, and presidents and athletic directors saying ‘You know you’ve done a great job here. We love you. We pay you really well. You get all this adoration. You’ve got to live by the rules.’”

I am very disappointed in Mark Emmert and the NCAA for taking this position on Joe Paterno, in essence becoming the judge, jury and executioner. But this should come as no surprise to those who know the NCAA. In the article, Emmert made the following statements:

“You’re seeing boards of directors, of trustees, and presidents and athletic directors saying ‘You know you’ve done a great job here. We love you. We pay you really well. You get all this adoration. You’ve got to live by the rules.’” Emmert went on to say, “And that’s a good thing.”

Well Mark, in reference to your statement, Joe did live by the rules of the University, of the NCAA, and of the law. However, you omitted the fact that Joe Paterno and the Penn State Football Program did not commit even one major NCAA violation in 61 years. Mr. Emmert, we are talking about a man who had a great family life, who gave so much more than he received, and whose motto of his football program was Success With Honor. And yes, he lived by his credo as well as your rules. In fact, in 2011 Joe Paterno’s Success With Honor initiative earned Penn State the ranking of the #1 academic football program in the country.

In the article, Mark Emmert said the five coaches who were fired (Paterno, Tressel, Petrino, Davis, and Pearl) had been considered “untouchable” in the past. Well, I would like to correct Mr. Emmert. The only “untouchable” in the history of college sports is the NCAA. You and your group are not accountable to anyone, as your actions have shown through the years. The only other “untouchable” within the College and University ranks is the Board of Trustees. Once again, they are not held accountable to anyone, despite their misdeeds.

If a person or organization is found guilty of a misdeed after the investigation, I wholeheartedly support the action of them being held accountable. In my opinion, there should be no exceptions, including the NCAA and the Board of Trustees.

Franco Harris

PSU '72



Dawnelle April 26, 2012 at 09:49 PM
Bravo, Mr. Harris! I think it is beyond ridiculous that the media AND Penn State have acted as if Papa Joe was the molestor. I am very bitter towards The Meadows for their actions, and even though I am not a big gambler, I HAVE been to the casino now and then. But never again. I wish I had only made one mistake in MY life.
Joyce April 27, 2012 at 07:20 AM
There are no heroes at Penn State right now...perhaps there never were. Many people witnessed, heard of, were told, investigated, and ignored the plight of children. In what world do grown men, when told that a coach was showering alone in campus locker rooms with a child as young as 10, call that "horsing around"...and in what world do they not immediately seek out that child and see to his well-being? That...in and of itself..is enabling child abuse. Period. Joe Paterno was only one of many who let down the victims, the team, the university, and the community. This failure is not something that has yet to be proven...this is something Paterno himself acknowledged...and that in and of itself constitutes reason for dismissal. IF we find out that Paterno and other officials knew of Sandusky's behavior in 1998 and forced him to retire without taking steps to protect his victims, that takes Paterno's failure from just a moral one to a criminal level. That Penn State students and alumni are focused on the firing of Paterno is also a symptom of the dangerous cultural illness that allowed this to happen in the first place. Mr. Harris...where is your outrage that children were victimized?

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