Considered a legend in the college football arena, Joe Paterno exhibited morals and ethical standards in coaching football for the last four decades. Recently caught in the middle of a sex abuse scandal, Paterno’s image and his role with Penn State have raised mixed emotions from students, fans, and bystanders alike. While Paterno alerted his superior about a reported sex abuse case, he failed to push his moral standards to protect the abused victims. His inaction defied everything he stood for.
Affectionately known as Joe Pa, Paterno gave generously to the university, through financial means, his dedication and reliability, and as an academic advocate, requiring players to meet certain academic standards in order to play on the team. Because of his generosity, the school named a library after him. He also had many endorsements, one of which was with Nike who sponsors the Joe Paterno Child Development Center on the Nike World Headquarters Campus. It is not inconceivable that many students chose Penn State because of Paterno’s presence. For years, Paterno’s coaching tactics and image afforded Penn State many contributions to the university endowment, which boasts more than $1 billion today. Overall, Penn State and others were proud to be associated with such a standup figure.
Penn State and Joe Paterno were nearly inseparable; you couldn’t mention one without the other. In other words, Paterno represented the university—to many he was the university. Because of this strong connection, his actions affect the university in a big way.
Penn State faces bad publicity in association with Paterno and others involved, which is why the university had to act quickly to remove all parties involved in the sex abuse scandal once it was made public. While Paterno was a beloved part of the university, morals and safety outweigh years of media press, winning football games, and the longest coaching career in history. Penn State’s quick actions and intolerance to this incident may save its image in the long run, but it may take years to fully recover—as many believe that Penn State took too long to address a problem known about for years.
As for Paterno, his inaction cost him value in his brand image. He now loses over $1 million in salary, an unaccounted amount of endorsements, and endowment potential for the university. This is just one case of many of how celebrity images can quickly be destroyed or damaged based on a person’s actions. Too much reliability on one person can taint a company’s or university’s image for years to come. This in turn can harm value. In this incidence, Penn State may face drops in enrollment, contributions to the endowment, and endorsements. Furthermore, it may have to work hard to regain its composure and convince the public that it is still a reputable institution.