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The Boston Globe

Sports

Dan Shaughnessy

Penn State should cancel season, fire staff

Joe Paterno

Phelan Ebenhack/AP

Joe Paterno was the coach at Penn State for 46 years before his dismissal on Wednesday night.

Penn State should cancel the rest of its football season.

Now.

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Legendary coach Joe Paterno and school president Graham B. Spanier were fired by the Board of Trustees late Wednesday night, and these same officials would do well to take the next step and announce the cancellation of the remainder of Penn State’s football season, starting with tomorrow’s “big game’’ against Nebraska.

Then send pink slips to everyone working on the football staff.

It’s time to start over, folks. This has gone on far too long already.

Interim coach Tom Bradley (on the staff since 1979, which is not a good thing) submitted to questions in a riveting and awkward press conference yesterday morning and pledged that Penn State’s students and players will show “class’’ and “dignity’’ when the Nittany Lions play Nebraska.

“Let’s show them what Penn State is all about,’’ said Bradley.

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Halting the season would be a better way to show us what Penn State is all about. Canceling football would be a way for the Board of Trustees to demonstrate that it understands the seriousness of the conspiracy of silence that cloaked Paterno’s “program’’ the last (at least) nine years.

Instead, we are told that tomorrow is “Senior Day’’ for the 8-1, bowl-bound Nittany Lions. So we’ll watch the disrespectful circus of “game day’’ in Happy Valley. We’ll see nimble cheerleaders, painted faces, fans guzzling beer in the parking lots, and plenty of defiant Paterno fans protesting his ouster.

Boola boola. Go team. Maybe the Nittany Lions can qualify for a BCS Bowl.

This is showing us what Penn State is all about? Did we see what Penn State was all about late Wednesday when sycophantic, moronic students rioted as they pledged allegiance to Paterno?

Like most folks in the Penn State community, Bradley worships at the feet of Joe Paterno.

“Coach Paterno will go down in history as one of the greatest men . . .,’’ said the interim coach.

Sorry, but Paterno’s legacy is no longer about 46 seasons, 409 wins, five undefeated seasons, and two national championships. It’s not about the hundreds of worthy players who graduated during Joe Pa’s long reign. It’s not about good deeds done and monies dedicated to the betterment of the university. It’s not about the man who put Penn State on the map.

Paterno’s legacy is now that of a man who stayed too long and ultimately failed to protect young victims from the monster who had access to Penn State’s “program.’’ Jerry Sandusky left the coaching staff in 1999, but Paterno never turned him in to police. We all make mistakes and no one wants to be remembered for his or her worst moment, but Paterno’s legacy is permanently tarnished.

It seems everybody knew, but nobody went to the police. This perfectly demonstrates the skewed priorities in yahoo towns with a big-time football program and little else. Institutions of higher learning become enablers of the “program.’’

Folks at Penn State in positions of power handled the Sandusky situation internally, and as a result, it appears, more children were violated. Sandusky used his association with Penn State to lure troubled young boys to “The Second Mile’’ foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to helping children from dysfunctional families.

According to Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly, the silence of Paterno and others at the university “likely allowed a child predator to continue to victimize children for many, many years.’’

And now everyone must go, including Bradley, who replaced Sandusky as defensive coordinator when Sandusky “took a buyout.’’

Bradley fell back on advice of counsel yesterday, refusing to answer questions about Sandusky or the criminal investigation. He was in a no-win situation, made worse by tone-deaf questions about the football game (“How involved will you be with the offense?’’ and “How will you determine who will start at quarterback’’) and fawning queries about “all the craziness that’s gone on this week,’’ and Penn State having its “reputation dragged through the mud around the world.’’

But playing Nebraska on national television is only going to make things worse. And can we please not have any more hand-wringing about how Joe Pa should have had the opportunity to coach one last home game?

Trustee Barry K. Robinson yesterday talked about the board making decisions for “the greater good of the university.’’

Fine. It’s still not too late to fire the coaching staff, cancel the game, and cancel the season. Before the legal system plays out and the jail sentences are issued - before the glacially paced, ever-sanctimonious NCAA gets around to its sanctions - Penn State has a chance to deliver a message and restore some of its soul.

No “Senior Day’’? Those players will recover. They’ll get over it.

Wish we could say the same for Jerry Sandusky’s victims.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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