Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak said Wednesday he is heartbroken by the sex abuse scandal at Penn State that forced legendary coach Joe Paterno out at Penn State.
Munchak played at Penn State in 1979 and 1981 and redshirted during the 1980 season with a knee injury. He received a business degree there and entered the NFL Draft a year early where the Houston Oilers took him with their first-round pick.
“For me this whole thing has been a horrible situation. It's been a tragedy that something like this can happen,” Munchak said. “I can't imagine what the victims and the families have been through, going through all this as you get more information.
“As far as how the university is handling it, and what Coach Paterno has decided to do, they know all the information and that's information that I think only they're aware of exactly what did go on and I think he's probably doing what he needs to do. He's probably thought of what's gone on here and I'm assuming that he's stepped back and did what he thought was best for the university and him going forward.”
At the crux of the situation is former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, who is accused of 40 counts of sexually abusing young boys during his time at the school and after his retirement. It was an alleged 2002 incident where Penn State graduate assistant coach Mike McQueary was an eyewitness and reported it to Paterno, who reported it to the athletics director. However, neither Paterno, McQueary or anyone else at Penn State reported the matter to authorities.
“It's heartbreaking for me, and not just the football. It's the kids and their families that went through this,” Munchak said. “I can't imagine what they're dealing with. That'll all be dealt with legally, but for us, that it happened to someone we know and trusted and Sandusky being accused, it's just hard to fathom that he'd be involved in something like this when he meant so much to the university at one time.”
Paterno, who has been at Penn State, is paying the price along with others because of what was not done.
“I don't know what he knew at the time, but ultimately he knows that he's the guy that made that university what it is and he's responsible for anything that happens while he's the head coach there, and he knows he has a lot of responsibility in this,” Munchak said.
Munchak said his feelings and respect for Paterno, who will be stepping down after 46 seasons as head coach, won't change.
“I don't know what kind of mistakes he made in this. I'm not going to judge him at all,” Munchak said. “Again I don't feel it's smart to judge anybody, and especially when you don't know exactly what went on and what he was told and all the other details. But for me, I just go on my experiences with him. I've made a lot of mistakes myself. It won't change how I feel about him, my relationship with him, what he's done for me and my career as a player.”
Munchak added that he is fine with letting Paterno finished out the season as head coach, although some have called for him to resign immediately in the wake of the scandal.
“Not knowing what was going with all of this, if you isolate the football and take out all the other things, I would think there's nothing wrong with him finishing out the season,” Munchak said. “He knows he, along with all the other administrators, know they're responsible for anything that goes on on their watch on their campus. Obviously they're going to make a lot of changes. I think they're in the middle of that now. I think the university will do the right thing, and I think Coach Paterno knows that. So he is stepping down when the season is over, so I'm assuming there's nothing wrong with him finishing the season.”
Titans backup linebacker and special teams captain Tim Shaw, who played at Penn State, also weighed in on the matter.
“It's a sad day that this type of stuff goes on in the world,” Shaw said. “And it's definitely a sad day for Penn State. ... I thought (Paterno) was going to go on forever.”
Shaw said he attended some charity functions and events for Sandusky's Second Mile program and indicated he was shocked by the allegations against the former coach. He also said he is deeply hurt by the scandal and accusations..
“I love Penn State. Penn State is a very, very special place to me and it always will be. And it's bigger than one man. It's bigger than two men. I am absolutely hurting just because of the negative view that people have right now of a place that I love,” Shaw said.