Joe Paterno was not Penn State. He was a football coach.
A great coach, yes. But still just a football coach.
Anyone who loves Penn State should love it for things like THON and Lift for Life and all the great graduates it produces. The people and actions make it a terrific university, not the fact that it had a famous coach and successful football program.
The cult-like worship of Paterno that has existed for decades -- and even still exists with some people who refuse to acknowledge his horrible decisions and crimes of silence -- is just plain wrong.
Love the man and love all he did for Penn State. But do not let that love be unconditional and blind you to the truth.
And the truth is this: Joe Paterno was not the man we all thought he was.
In a staggering fall from grace, Paterno went from being one of the most respected men on the planet a year ago to a man whose legacy has been disgraced because his silence and denial helped protect a child molester in the name of protecting his own image and the images of his football program and university.
Little children were raped because Joe Paterno stayed silent, along with Penn State President Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and school Vice President Gary Schultz.
Paterno isn't more or less to blame than the other three. They're all equally guilty because any one of them could have come forward at any time over the past decade and told the proper authorities about Jerry Sandusky.
In many ways, we are guilty, too, as a society.
We put sports figures like Paterno and celebrities up on a pedestal and celebrate them like they were more than what they really are, which are human beings who make mistakes.
I am not from Pennsylvania, which most people know by now, and therefore I have never fully understood the way many Penn State fans worshipped Paterno. I didn't grow up in this culture, didn't attend Penn State and didn't idolize him because he won a lot of football games and helped grow the university.
To me, he was a great coach, albeit one who really wasn't so great in recent years because he simply couldn't handle all the responsibilities of his job any longer.
Since I have been critical of his coaching abilities, many fans confused that as me not liking Paterno or having some sort of ax to grind. That couldn't be further from the truth.
I have a job to do, which is to report on and analyze the football team, and in recent years I did not believe Paterno was pulling his weight and getting the most out of the Penn State program. The Nittany Lions have gone 0-9 against top-five teams and 3-12 against top-10 teams since 2000, so to claim that the program was perennially one of the nation's elite was nothing short of wishful thinking by fans who long for the good ol' days that pretty much ended after the 1994 season.
The program needed a coaching change years ago, but Paterno was too stubborn to see that he was well past his prime. He had nothing else to do in life and was always afraid that he, like his good friend Bear Bryant at Alabama, would die shortly after getting out of coaching.
Sadly, that turned out to be the case for Paterno, who died of cancer in January at age 85.
Just as sad, his death prevented us all from knowing why.
Why did he cover up what he knew about Sandusky?
Why would a man who lived a life of what we thought was impeccable integrity and character make such horrible mistakes in judgment when faced with the toughest decision of his life?
We will never know the answers.
What we do know is this: Joe Paterno's legacy is largely destroyed, and he will be remembered by most people around the nation not as a great coach who did many wonderful things, but instead as a man who failed to protect children and helped cover up the biggest sports scandal in our country's history.
Cory Giger is the host of "Sports Central" from 4 to 6 p.m. daily on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM. Reach him at 949-7031 or @CoryGiger on Twitter.