A mere eight months ago, the only news that was coming out of Penn State was the success of its student athletes. It was all about earning the trip to the first Big Ten Championship game, one that the Nittany Lions were on their way to accomplishing.
The famed football coach earned his record setting win in Division-I sports, a record that ultimately will never be touched.
One week later, with no game on the schedule, an entire school and an entire community would be turned upside down.
The indictment of former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky suddenly changed an outlook on a squeaky-clean image university. It was the talk of the entire week, and ultimately led into the week of the final home football game. Charges of an unspeakable crime, one that hurt everyone involved, rocked a community that maintained a "Success with Honor" attitude. A school that was known world-wide for a grand image suddenly found itself involved in a cover-up of a former coach.
But, one Wednesday night, all things changed.
The Board of Trustees announced late at night the ousting of President Graham Spanier, and the immediate firing of coach Joe Paterno. Riots broke out in downtown State College, with damage seen all down the lead roadway of the university, while others mourned in silence and poured out support for it's coach.
The football game didn't matter...the team didn't matter. It was all about the scandal that tarnished a school, a community, and many families.
Two months later, after being diagnosed with lung cancer a short time after his firing, Paterno's life came to a sad end. Many people hold the idea that the cancer may be the official cause, but it can be argued that the man many people just knew as "JoePa" passed away because of a broken heart. He said it best in that "I wish I would've done more."
Six months to the day of the passing of Paterno, the Penn State community gathered together for another reason. But, this one was of relief, some of happiness, and some still somber.
A total of 48 charges were in the hands of a 12-person jury, many with ties to the university. In all, 45 of those charges stood, as Sandusky was found guilty.
Amidst the joy of some people in the Penn State community, there was still some sorrow. The sorrow was for the victims of Sandusky, who at just a young age had their innocence taken away, and had it taken in one of the the worst ways possible. An organization that was established to help young kids suddenly is looked at as a front for finding young victims. A program that has been held in the highest respect for nearly 50 years has been forever linked to a scandal of unimaginable proportions.
Justice has been done, however the aftermath may never be over. Penn State is now must attempt to recreate the image it once had, one that will take years to get back.
Sure, everyone that watched, waited and hoped for this outcome certainly are in a joyous mood? But the image of Penn State and the scandal will not disappear that quickly. The scars of the last eight months have cut deep, and likely will never heal. The football program has an entirely new staff, and will look to move forward beginning this fall.
Penn State's alma mater has four verses, with the final verse beginning with "May No Act Of Ours Bring Shame," but the acts of Sandusky will forever shame the university tucked in the Alleghany Mountains. A quiet community that stays to itself, and is closely knit, will always have to remember the images of it's school administrators getting fired late one Wednesday night.
Current students and all alumni now must look ahead, knowing that the school they chose is linked to a despicable act.
Paterno once said, "Believe deep down in your heart that you are destined to do great things."
Maybe now, an entire community of students, staff, faculty and alumni can do great things together, and make it their destiny to overcome a scandal that took away innocence, a president, and one beloved coach and humanitarian.