Do they get it now? Do the Penn State students and fans who rushed to the defense of Joe Paterno in the wake of his firing now understand his role in covering up Jerry Sandusky's crimes?
CNN has uncovered emails from February 2001 - just two weeks after then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary reported seeing Sandusky having sexual contact with a young boy in a locker-room shower - and they seem to be the smoking gun that puts to rest the notion that Paterno was just too old and out of the loop to understand that Sandusky was the worst kind of predator.
Instead, it appears that Penn State athletic director Tim Curley, vice president Gary Schultz and president Graham Spanier had agreed to report what they knew about Sandusky - referred to in emails as "the subject" - to child welfare officials, but back off after Curley and Paterno talked.
In an email to Spanier, Curley wrote:
"After giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe yesterday, I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps."
It is unknown exactly what Paterno said to Curley, but clearly the Nittany Lions coach said something that convinced the athletic director to change course and keep the matter inside university walls.
More allegedly from Curley: "I am having trouble with going to everyone, but the person involved."
Schultz reportedly wrote: "There is a more humane and upfront way to handle this."
That way ended up being to cover up the incident, which allowed Sandusky another decade or so to roam central Pennsylvania freely in search of more victims.
Paterno proclaimed almost to his dying day that he knew nothing other than a vague account of the shower incident provided by McQueary. He said he did what he was supposed to do, which was relay the story to Curley, Schultz and Spanier - Happy Valley's Three Stooges - and let them decided what to do.
If this latest bombshell is authentic, Paterno lied.
This is his legacy.
Not 61 years at Penn State and 46 as the Nittany Lions' head coach.
Not the 1982 and '86 national championships.
This email trail - if accurate - shows us that Paterno valued his personal legacy and that of the football program he built far more than the safety and welfare of innocent children. Even in death, Paterno has to own the decision it seems he made by convincing Curley and the others supposedly above him in Penn State's power structure to keep quiet about Sandusky.
I'd held out some hope that Paterno really was simply out of touch and as shocked by the Sandusky allegations as most of the rest of us. But that just doesn't make sense. I'm not sure how Sandusky could be Paterno's top assistant for so many years and keep his boss - and the rest of the coaching staff and other Penn State officials - blissfully unaware of the man he really was.
These emails seem to indicate that Paterno not only knew what Sandusky was, but that he was a vital figure - perhaps the ringleader - of the most disgusting and heartbreaking coverup and scandal in sports history.
Paterno could have been a hero far beyond anything he ever did on the Penn State sideline. He could have stopped Sandusky in his tracks and played a major role in sending him to prison for the rest of his life. Instead, it appears Paterno convinced Curley, Schultz and Spanier to look the other way even as Sandusky continued to troll for victims and abuse them right on campus.
All they did was delay the inevitable, which finally came about because courageous victims came forward.
Every time I read another story about the scandal or write about it, I'm more sickened that so many people - any one of whom could have stopped Sandusky with a phone call to the proper authorities - made a conscious decision to do nothing.
It's too late for Paterno. He thought he was taking what he knew to the grave. In death, some of us actually felt sorry for him and wondered if we were too tough on the guy in the Coke-bottle glasses.
Email, of course, never really goes away and it seems that the legacy Paterno wanted so desperately to preserve will be lost forever and replaced with his ties to Sandusky.
These email messages could ensure that Curley and Schultz - who've been indicted for perjury - spend years in prison. There may well be more Penn State officials indicted before it's all over. And then the civil lawsuits will come, and those could destroy Spanier - who has not been indicted - and rock the university to its core. What will be left after Penn State has to pay Sandusky's victims because of its complicity in his sordid crimes?
And what about the football program?
I've never been a fan of the NCAA's death penalty, but if Paterno was as big a part of this scandal as it now appears he was, Penn State football should go away. If not now and if not for all of this, when and why should a program get the death penalty? If this isn't the worst example of a lack of institutional control we've ever seen, I'd hate to think what would have to happen for the NCAA to step in and put a football program out of our misery.