What once was unthinkable has occurred: Legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno has been fired. It had to happen.
Perhaps the best reason for that was provided by "JoePa" himself. Before the university's board of trustees fired him and Penn State president Graham Spanier Wednesday, Paterno said this: "It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."
He referred to allegations a former subordinate in Penn State's football program sexually abused at least nine children.
All parties appear to agree Paterno met his legal obligation in notifying university officials after the one time he says he was told former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was seen sexually abusing a 10-year-old boy in the team's football complex. But if the reports about Sandusky's behavior contain even a hint of truth, Paterno failed to meet a moral obligation to go to the police.
Paterno has achieved college football sainthood in this country. He is a winner who ran a program that appeared to produce players who cared almost as much about behaving like gentlemen as they did about winning. He has more Division I-A wins and more bowl wins than any other coach.
He also had the power, according to reports, to go to the police, who might have stopped Sandusky's alleged abuse years ago, and he did not use it.
Blame should not stop at Paterno and Spanier, of course. Every Penn State official who was aware of Sandusky's alleged behavior and did nothing bears responsibility for the crimes committed against the boys Sandusky is charged with abusing.
But Paterno is the public face of Penn State. He has a chance now to take the smallest of steps toward showing Sandusky's alleged victims and college football fans everywhere he understands he made a mistake. The JoePa millions of fans thought they knew will sieze that opportunity and run with it - as a way of preventing others from making the same mistake he did.