Good Critical Thinking On Decision Making Model: Joe Palerno

Type of paper: Critical Thinking

Topic: Students, Education, Teamwork, Coach, Team, Social Issues, Sports, University

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2020/12/19

Joe Palerno born December 21 1926 was the long-term head coach of the Penn state football team. His playing career was between 1946 and 1949 for brown where he played as a quarter back and corner back. He first joined Penn state as assistant coach between 1950 and 1965 before becoming head coach from 1966 to 2011 (Byrd, 2011). During his time as head coach, he was the most successful coach in the history of college football with over 400 victories. His stellar career was however cut short when he was sacked for involvement in the Penn state child abuse case in 2011. The facts of the scandal indicate that Palermo might have been aware of the child sex abuse taking place orchestrated by his defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky (Pennsylvania State University, 2015).
The investigation by former FBI director Louis Freeh concluded that Joe was aware of the routine sex abuse done by Sandusky and conspired by persuading university officials from reporting these activities to the authorities. After the scandal broke, Joe offered to resign at the end of the season but he was sacked by the university effective immediately. In addition to these, Penn state football team was rescinded all the matches they had won since 1998 to 2011 although this was a decision that was later reversed. Joe died of lung cancer complications barely two months after he was sacked (Pennsylvania State University, 2015).
The college football league is very competitive. This has led to numerous occasions where there have been underhand dealings in the league. The Penn state Nittany lions are among the most successful teams in the history of college football. This is largely due to the influence of Joe Palerno as assistant and later head coach of the team. In order to attract the best players, the university offers scholarships to athletically gifted students to study in the school (Byrd, 2011). Joe was himself a football player while studying at brown university where he played quarter back and cornerback. He initially intended to pursue law as a career but instead chose to become a football coach after being convinced by his former head coach who had left brown for Penn state. Joe became assistant coach after college and later became head coach for Penn state Nittany Lions team. The standards set by Joe in the Penn state team can be shown by the expansion of the stadium six times during his tenure, from a capacity of 46000 in 1966 to over one hundred thousand spectators in 2001 (Pennsylvania State University, 2015).
Judging from this, it is clear that the university football team was expected to win at all costs and this could have led to the scandal that broke out in 2011. The problem itself arose because of the sexual abuse claims made on assistant coach and defensive coordinator of the team Jerry Sandusky (Byrd, 2011). Jerry was accused of locating and grooming his victims through his charity the second mile. Sandusky had a very important role to play in the team as an assistant coach. Palerno as the head coach of the team was responsible for the teams overall performance. Considering the period the crimes are alleged to have taken place, Palerno must have at one point become aware of the facts. However, the pressure for the team to perform could have led him to conceal his assistant coach who was vital for the performance of the team (Byrd, 2011).
This case raised a number of ethical issues. As the head coach of a university football team, Palerno was primarily responsible for the welfare of the students under him. However, he eventually turned accomplice in the case where his assistant was accused and found guilty of child sex abuse charges (ESPN, 2011). What are the factors that could have led such a respectable coach to conceal such a crime happening under his watch? Many people might argue that Palerno might not have been aware of the crimes taking place. But the period the crimes are said to have taken place raise questions. The crimes allegedly happened for a period of over three decades when Palerno was head coach. During this time, he must have been aware that something was not right (ESPN, 2011).
As the report by Louis Freeh found, Palerno concealed facts about Sandusky’s illegal activities and he persuaded university officials from reporting Sandusky to the authorities. This raises the question, what could have led Palerno to conceal these crimes? Palerno and Sandusky worked together for more than thirty years and this period was the most successful period for the team. Being one of the most successful teams in the history of college football, there was pressure for the team to perform. It must have played a significant part because Palerno was reluctant to report Sandusky for the continued performance of the team. This is a situation where the performance of the team is placed ahead of the welfare of the students. In turn, this led to the rise of the win at all costs culture within the football team (Kercheval, 2015). This is the reason why Palerno did not report the illegal activities of his assistant coach. This was because he believed this would unsettle the team and have an effect on the performance expected.
There are pertinent ethical issues to be considered considering the situation Palerno found himself. A member of his staff was involved in child sexual abuse and he did not report the matter to the relevant authorities.
Was the pressure for the team to perform too great that the head coach opted not to report his assistant for child sex abuse? This could be true. During the tenure of head coach Palerno, Penn state became the most successful college football team. This reputation was expected to continue. The head coach found it difficult to report the assistant for sex abuse for the continued good performance of the team.
Is it possible that the school management expected the team to win at all costs? This is possibly also true (Kercheval, 2015). The great lengths to which the cover up was done is an indicator. The fact that some university officials were convinced by the head coach not to report the crimes to authorities shows that they understood the pressures that he was going through. The university had invested a lot in its athletics program to an extent where the welfare and education of the students took a back seat in such matters. The university routinely offered scholarships to athletically gifted students to join various sporting teams in the school.
A counterargument to the above points is that coach Palerno himself was directly involved in the child abuse scandal. However, the extensive investigation carried out by the former director of the FBI Louis Freeh did not uncover any of these. This however could have been the case which led him to conceal such a crime when he was not directly involved. By concealing the crime, coach Palerno became a co-conspirator in the crime. Another argument would be that Palerno was not aware of the activities of his assistant but the same report shows that he persuaded university officials not to report Sandusky to the authorities. This is proof that he was aware of what was going on (Kercheval, 2015).
The action taken by the authorities was to charge Sandusky with over forty counts of sex abuse charges. These were just some of the alleged crimes said to have taken place between 1998 and 2011. However, the crimes allegedly started in the 1970s but most had been overtaken by the statute of limitations. Sandusky was sentenced to between thirty and sixty years in prison. The university authorities decided to terminate the contract of Coach Person along with a number of officials said to have been complicit. The NCAA also imposed a fine and invalidated all of Penn state wins from 1998 to 2011. Additionally, NCAA slapped Penn State with sporting sanctions, a decision that was later reversed (Kercheval, 2015).
The actions taken by the relevant authorities were sufficient for the crimes committed. However, only assistant coach Gerald “Jerry” Sandusky was criminally convicted (Kercheval, 2015). This was a let off for the other individuals involved in the scandal. The NCAA also changed its policy on athletics and sports in college. The welfare and educational needs of the student had to be always given priority over the participation in any sport. These policy changes were enacted to ensure that the performance of any college sports team would not put pressure on the responsible officials to an extent where they could not report such incidences in future.


(2015).Lesson 3: Decision Making and Problem Solving. Retrieved March 13, 2015, from
Byrd, G. (2011). Reflecting on JoePa's Legacy. Retrieved March 14, 2015, from
ESPN (2011). Joe Paterno, Graham Spanier removed. Retrieved March 14, 2015, from
Kercheval, B. (2015). NCAA Should Give Paterno's Vacated Wins Back. Retrieved March 14, 2015, from
Pennsylvania State University (2015) The Freeh Report on Pennsylvania State University. Retrieved March 13, 2015, from

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Good Critical Thinking On Decision Making Model: Joe Palerno. Free Essay Examples - Published Dec 19, 2020. Accessed June 04, 2023.

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