(Pioneer Press) I don’t even want to think about these poor kids suffering because of this monster. – John Gagliardi
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St. John’s coach John Gagliardi on Penn State scandal:
‘It’s beyond belief, absolutely beyond belief’
November 9, 2011
A little more than a week ago, Joe Paterno was being celebrated for winning more Division I college football games than any coach in history. Things change. Fast. Now caught up in a scandal that has rocked Penn State, Paterno appears to be on his way out as the Nittany Lions’ coach.
The New York Times is reporting that members of the university’s Board of Trustees want to oust Paterno, whose former assistant, Jerry Sandusky, is charged with 40 sex crimes against minors while running a program for at-risk kids. Paterno reported an allegation of misconduct to his superiors, but he is under fire for not doing more.
The scandal has become a dominant story on college campuses across the nation. I talked Tuesday with St. John’s coach John Gagliardi, 85, who has more wins than Paterno and the most of any college football coach ever and, over the years, often has referred to Paterno as a contemporary.
BS: If, as reported, Joe Paterno is forced to step down at Penn State, do you think the circumstances will overshadow his career? Or that, in time, what people will remember is the success he had on the field?
JG: Well, that’s what I hope. I don’t know the whole story. I understand Paterno told his boss what happened. I just hate anything to happen to him. I’d hate anything to happen to all those poor kids. That’s the saddest part of all. It’s beyond belief, absolutely beyond belief. There’s so many ways they could have stopped it, I guess. Who knows what the hell they thought? How could you believe a guy you worked with for 30 years would be involved in this? I understand the guy was married. How does a guy who’s married and went out of his way to take care of needy kids, how the hell could you suspect that guy? Those kind of monsters, they should have a new penalty for them, something that would be horrible because of the way they scar people and families.
BS: Is it unfortunate that Paterno will not be able to go out on his own terms?
JG: The old great Bud Grant said when he quit that he wanted to go out on his own terms. Most coaches don’t. I’ve thought about that a hell of a lot lately. Those words keep ringing in his ears. I guess Paterno did what he thought he should do. I think I’d go confront the damn guy.
BS: Paterno hasn’t talked publicly about it, so it’s possible he did confront (Sandusky) and was assured the allegations were false.
JG: You don’t want to believe it could happen. Thank God, I’ve never run into that situation. There are some horrible people out there.
BS: It’s a shocking scandal, but is it even more shocking because it involves Penn State and a coach who has had a pristine reputation could be losing his job over it?
JG: You’d think so, yeah. A lot of damage has been done to these boys, and I guess they’re saying they might have saved many more boys if (someone had) jumped in there earlier. It’s all because of these horrible predators.
BS: Late last month, Paterno was being lauded for accumulating the most wins by a Division I coach. Is this a reminder to everyone that things can change so fast?
JG: Yeah, that’s for sure. It could happen quick. I don’t even want to think about these poor kids suffering because of this monster.
BS: Have you reached out to Paterno, or will you?
JG: I don’t dare call him. I’d return a phone call. I won’t initiate anything. I’m kind of shy, I guess. I don’t push myself on anybody.
BS: You’ve often referenced Paterno’s age and longevity when asked about your own age and longevity. Would it be odd to be coaching knowing he’s also not patrolling a sideline?
JG: I went through that first withdrawal deal when Grant left the Vikings. I’ve never been quite the (same) Vikings fan since. You’ve got a guy you admire, and he leaves the scene. Things change. I’m just glad I got up in the morning and I’m still here.
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St. John’s coach John Gagliardi on Penn State scandal: ‘It’s beyond belief, absolutely beyond belief’
Updated: 11/09/2011 12:15:11 AM CST