When Joe Paterno died from lung cancer during the height of the Jerry Sandusky scandal/horror movie in 2012, it was hardly a surprise. At times it seemed that the only thing tethering the 85-year-old to Earth was the sheer love for Penn State football and when that was taken away his body shortly followed.
As such, since even his life and even his death is inextricably linked with one of the most infamous sports stories ever, he will likely always be remembered as a primary villain. But a state prosecutor from the Jerry Sandusky trial think that may not have been the case should JoePa have carried on a little longer.
In an interview with Showtime’s 60 Minutes Sports last night, Frank Fina, Pennsylvania’s former chief deputy attorney general and prosecutor in the Sandusky case, revealed that he believes Paterno would not have been charged with a crime had he lived long enough.
“I do not (think he would be charged),” Fina said. “And I’m viewing this strictly on the evidence, not any kind of fealty to anybody. I did not find that evidence.”
It would be very interesting to see what JoePa’s exoneration would have done for the lasting narrative of the Sandusky scandal and Paterno’s legacy. Very few would argue that Paterno didn’t do what was legally required from him. Any subsequent trial would likely have proven that.
But there is no trial that could have judged Paterno based on the lofty expectations he, State College and really, everyone else, created for him. Forty-five years of the “Grand Experiment” created a legend so large that all it could do was disappoint.
The buck was always supposed to stop with JoePa…even if it actually wasn’t. “(Paterno) said it best,” Fina said. “‘I didn’t do enough. I should have done more.’”