Joe Paterno

Thank you for publishing a balanced account of Joe Paterno’s legacy in Monday’s paper. As someone with degrees from both UT and Penn State, I appreciated Mack Brown’s insights about his time spent with Paterno. Paterno shouldn’t be deified in his passing, nor should he be vilified. But for those who continue to spend their time condemning him posthumously, I’d like to suggest that you instead redirect your energy into something more productive, such as volunteering for local organizations dedicated to protecting children from abuse.

Jennifer Lyon is the associate director of the Center for Nano Molecular Science.

Texas football coach Mack Brown, left, greets Joe Paterno in May 2008 when Paterno was the keynote speaker at a Texas event where Brown was presented with The Mack Brown Distinguished Chair for Leadership in Global Affairs. Paterno was 3-2 against UT but never faced Brown.

Photo Credit: Texas Sports

Before last November, Joe Paterno’s legend was cemented. Now, remembering JoePa as the role model everyone hoped to becomes a little more difficult.

On the one hand, he devoted his life to the Penn State football team, the students, the university and the community as a whole, and was regarded as the supreme creator of what it meant to mold student athletes. Along the way, he won more games than any coach in college history. There was nothing he wanted more than to leave Penn State on his own terms, because he made it what it was.

But when he was stripped of his position in November for his silence amid the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, it forced us all to reexamine what we thought was the “Penn State” way of doing things, a standard he himself set. Everyone reacted with confusion and anger, and anyone who cared about football let out a collective “Say it ain’t so, Joe.”

Given the depth of the scandal, the many years it was said to have gone on and the seemingly top-to-bottom disregard the Penn State coaching staff and university leaders had for these innocent children, you may see the issue as polarizing, and most people will be quick to pick a side.

Former Oklahoma head coach Barry Switzer, who went through a series of morally questionable scandals himself, said in November that there was no way that Paterno and his staff didn’t know how deep this controversy ran. Switzer felt they had kept it a secret and insinuated Paterno should shoulder much of the blame.

“Having been in this profession a long time and knowing how close coaching staffs are, I knew that this was a secret that was kept secret,” Switzer said as the controversy unfolded. “Everyone on that staff had to have known, the ones that had been around a long time.”

To his friends, like current Texas head coach Mack Brown, the news yesterday was hard to swallow because of Paterno’s positives.

“I’ve known Coach Paterno since I started coaching. Sally [Brown] and I built a great relationship with him and Sue [Paterno] over the last 10 to 15 years, and we shared many great times. I know our lives are better because we had the opportunity to spend time with them,” Brown said in a statement. “He was a gift to us, and when we heard the sad news today, we both openly wept, not only because college football lost a great man, but we lost a great friend. I appreciate all of the advice, the attention and the time he’s given us over the years.”

Texas legend Darrell Royal echoed those feelings.

“What I remember about our days when we were both coaching is that Joe was very honest. He was a heck of a coach, and he was one of the outstanding coaches of all time,” Royal said. “You can’t say that about every coach, but you darn sure can say that about Joe Paterno. He meant a lot to the game, and he meant a lot to me. He was a solid person and a solid friend.”

For me, this column is hard to write because there truly are two clear sides to this coin, and it would be remiss to so quickly say there is a black or white answer to what Paterno’s lasting legacy will be. There is no denying his greatness. Anyone who devotes 46 years of his life to bettering an entire community is undoubtedly going to earn the esteem of most. On the other hand, Switzer’s comments echo something that I think everyone who knew him and the Penn State program knows but hates to have to admit.

From this though, we can learn one thing: the gray, ambiguous blob in which my feelings toward JoePa currently dwell has taught me that good people, all people, make mistakes. Some bigger than others, some that you may not even know you made and some that can’t even be forgiven. The lesson here is to never put heroes too high on a pedestal, because even icons like Joe are fallible. For the side of us that is heartbroken, it is our own fault for writing his legacy before we gave him the chance to fall.

After the events of the past two months, this may be the best thing that could’ve happened to JoePa. His heart was full of grief and the weight of the world he once happily lifted high above his head finally began to flex its muscles. Now he has a chance to rest in peace, and we have a chance to learn from both the immense amount of good and the painfully bad in his legacy.

Printed on Monday, January 23, 2012 as: Paterno's death, legacy sparks mixed response

Texas football coach Mack Brown, left, greets Joe Paterno in May 2008 when Paterno was the keynote speaker at a Texas event where Brown was presented with The Mack Brown Distinguished Chair for Leadership in Global Affairs. Paterno was 3-2 against UT but never faced Brown.

Photo Credit: Texas Sports

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Happy Valley was perfect for Joe Paterno, a place where "JoePa" knew best, where he not only won more football games than any other major college coach, but won them the right way: with integrity and sportsmanship. A place where character came first, championships second.

Behind it all, however, was an ugly secret that ran counter to everything the revered coach stood for.

Paterno, a sainted figure at Penn State for almost half a century but scarred forever by the child sex abuse scandal that brought his career to a stunning end, died Sunday at age 85.

His death came just over two months after his son Scott announced on Nov. 18 that his father had been diagnosed with a treatable form of lung cancer. The cancer was found during a follow-up visit for a bronchial illness. A few weeks later, Paterno broke his pelvis after a fall but did not need surgery.

Paterno had been in the hospital since Jan. 13 for observation after what his family called minor complications from his cancer treatments. Not long before that, he conducted his only interview since losing his job, with The Washington Post. Paterno was described as frail then, speaking mostly in a whisper and wearing a wig. The second half of the two-day interview was conducted at his bedside.

His family released a statement Sunday morning to announce his death: "His loss leaves a void in our lives that will never be filled."

"He died as he lived," the statement said. "He fought hard until the end, stayed positive, thought only of others and constantly reminded everyone of how blessed his life had been. His ambitions were far reaching, but he never believed he had to leave this Happy Valley to achieve them. He was a man devoted to his family, his university, his players and his community."

Paterno built a program based on the credo of "Success with Honor," and he found both. The man known as "JoePa" won 409 games and took the Nittany Lions to 37 bowl games and two national championships. More than 250 of the players he coached went on to the NFL.

"He will go down as the greatest football coach in the history of the game," Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said after his former team, the Florida Gators, beat Penn State 37-24 in the 2011 Outback Bowl.

Paterno roamed the sidelines for 46 seasons, his thick-rimmed glasses, windbreaker and jet-black sneakers as familiar as the Nittany Lions' blue and white uniforms. He won 409 games and two national championships.

The reputation he built looked even more impressive because he insisted on keeping graduation rates high while maintaining on-field success.

But in the middle of his 46th season, the legend was shattered. Paterno was engulfed in a child sex abuse scandal when a former trusted assistant, Jerry Sandusky, was accused of molesting 10 boys over a 15-year span, sometimes in the football building.

Paterno at first said he was fooled. But outrage built quickly when the state's top cop said the coach hadn't fulfilled a moral obligation to go to the authorities when a graduate assistant, Mike McQueary, told Paterno he saw Sandusky with a young boy in the showers of the football complex in 2002.

At a preliminary hearing for the school officials, McQueary testified that he had seen Sandusky attacking the child with his hands around the boy's waist but said he wasn't 100 percent sure it was intercourse. McQueary described Paterno as shocked and saddened and said the coach told him he'd "done the right thing" by reporting the encounter.

Paterno waited a day before alerting school officials but never went to the police.

"I didn't know which way to go ... and rather than get in there and make a mistake," Paterno said in the Post interview.

"You know, (McQueary) didn't want to get specific," Paterno said. "And to be frank with you I don't know that it would have done any good, because I never heard of, of, rape and a man. So I just did what I thought was best. I talked to people that I thought would be, if there was a problem, that would be following up on it."

When the scandal erupted in November, Paterno said he would retire following the 2011 season. He also said he was "absolutely devastated" by the abuse case.

"This is a tragedy," he said. "It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."

But the university trustees faced a crisis, and in an emergency meeting that night, they fired Paterno, effective immediately. Graham Spanier, one of the longest-serving university presidents in the nation, also was fired.

Paterno was notified by phone, not in person, a decision that board vice chairman John Surma later regretted, according to Lanny Davis, an attorney retained by the trustees as an adviser.

The university handed the football team to one of Paterno's assistants, Tom Bradley, who said Paterno "will go down in history as one of the greatest men, who maybe most of you know as a great football coach."

"As the last 61 years have shown, Joe made an incredible impact," said the statement from the family. "That impact has been felt and appreciated by our family in the form of thousands of letters and well wishes along with countless acts of kindness from people whose lives he touched. It is evident also in the thousands of successful student athletes who have gone on to multiply that impact as they spread out across the country."

Paterno believed success was not measured entirely on the field. From his idealistic early days, he had implemented what he called a "grand experiment" — to graduate more players while maintaining success on the field.

He was a frequent speaker on ethics in sports, a conscience for a world often infiltrated by scandal and shady characters.

The team consistently ranked among the best in the Big Ten for graduating players. As of 2011, it had 49 academic All-Americans, the third-highest among schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision. All but two played under Paterno.

"He teaches us about really just growing up and being a man," former linebacker Paul Posluszny, now with the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars, once said. "Besides the football, he's preparing us to be good men in life."

Paterno certainly had detractors. One former Penn State professor called his high-minded words on academics a farce, and a former administrator said players often got special treatment. His coaching style often was considered too conservative. Some thought he held on to his job too long, and a move to push him out in 2004 failed.

But the critics were in the minority, and his program was never cited for major NCAA violations. The child sex abuse scandal, however, did prompt separate investigations by the U.S. Department of Education and the NCAA into the school's handling.

Paterno played quarterback and cornerback for Brown University and set a defensive record with 14 career interceptions, a distinction he still boasted about to his teams in his 80s. He graduated in 1950 with plans to go to law school. He said his father hoped he would someday be president.

But when Paterno was 23, a former coach at Brown was moving to Penn State to become the head coach and persuaded Paterno to come with him as an assistant.

"I had no intention to coach when I got out of Brown," Paterno said in 2007 in an interview at Penn State's Beaver Stadium before being inducted into college football's Hall of Fame. "Come to this hick town? From Brooklyn?"

In 1963, he was offered a job by the late Al Davis — $18,000, triple his salary at Penn State, plus a car to become general manager and coach of the AFL's Oakland Raiders. He said no. Rip Engle retired as Penn State head coach three years later, and Paterno took over.

At the time, the Lions were considered "Eastern football" — inferior — and Paterno courted newspaper coverage to raise the team's profile. In 1967, PSU began a 30-0-1 streak.

But Penn State couldn't get to the top of the polls. The Lions finished second in 1968 and 1969 despite perfect seasons. They were undefeated and untied again in 1973 at 12-0 again but finished fifth. Texas edged them in 1969 after President Richard Nixon, impressed with the Longhorns' bowl performance, declared them No. 1.

"I'd like to know," Paterno said later, "how could the president know so little about Watergate in 1973, and so much about college football in 1969?"

A national title finally came in 1982, after a 27-23 win over Georgia at the Sugar Bowl. Another followed in 1986 after the Lions picked off Vinny Testaverde five times and beat Miami 14-10 in the Fiesta Bowl.

They made several title runs after that, including a 2005 run to the Orange Bowl and an 11-1 season in 2008 that ended in a 37-23 loss to Southern California in the Rose Bowl.

In his later years, physical ailments wore the old coach down.

Paterno was run over on the sideline during a game at Wisconsin in November 2006 and underwent knee surgery. He hurt his hip in 2008 demonstrating an onside kick. An intestinal illness and a bad reaction to antibiotics prescribed for dental work slowed him for most of the 2010 season. He began scaling back his speaking engagements that year, ending his summer caravan of speeches to alumni across the state.

Then a receiver bowled over Paterno at practice in August, sending him to the hospital with shoulder and pelvis injuries and consigning him to coach much of what would be his last season from the press box.

"The fact that we've won a lot of games is that the good Lord kept me healthy, not because I'm better than anybody else," Paterno said two days before he won his 409th game and passed Eddie Robinson of Grambling State for the most in Division I. "It's because I've been around a lot longer than anybody else."

Paterno could be conservative on the field, especially in big games, relying on the tried-and-true formula of defense, the running game and field position.

"They've been playing great defense for 45 years," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said in November.

Paterno and his wife, Sue, raised five children in State College. Anybody could telephone him at his modest ranch home — the same one he appeared in front of on the night he was fired — by looking up "Paterno, Joseph V." in the phone book.

He walked to home games and was greeted and wished good luck by fans on the street. Former players paraded through his living room for the chance to say hello. But for the most part, he stayed out of the spotlight.

Paterno did have a knack for jokes. He referred to Twitter, the social media site, as "Twittle-do, Twittle-dee."

He also could be abrasive and stubborn, and he had his share of run-ins with his bosses or administrators. And as his legend grew, so did the attention to his on-field decisions, and the questions about when he would hang it up.

Calls for his retirement reached a crescendo in 2004. The next year, Penn State went 11-1 and won the Big Ten. In the Orange Bowl, PSU beat Florida State, whose coach, Bobby Bowden, was eased out after the 2009 season after 34 years and 389 wins.

Like many others, he was outlasted by "JoePa."

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — A day after the former Penn State assistant football coach who is charged with sexual abuse of boys declared his innocence in a television interview, an email surfaced from a key witness against him, saying he stopped an alleged attack in the team’s showers.

Mike McQueary, the graduate assistant who a grand jury report said saw Jerry Sandusky allegedly sodomizing a boy in the locker room, said he stopped the act and went to police. That added confusion to the already emotionally raw situation that has enveloped Penn State University and resulted in the firing of coach Joe Paterno, the ousting of president Graham Spanier and charges of perjury against the athletic director and a former senior vice president.

The Nov. 8 email from McQueary to a friend, made available to The Associated Press, said: “I did stop it, not physically ... but made sure it was stopped when I left that locker room ... I did have discussions with police and with the official at the university in charge of police .... no one can imagine my thoughts or wants to be in my shoes for those 30-45 seconds ... trust me.”

McQueary is a former player and current assistant coach who was placed on indefinite paid leave last week after school officials said he had received threats. Emails sent to him seeking comment were not immediately returned.

On Monday night, Sandusky said in an NBC television interview that he showered with and “horsed around” with boys but was innocent of criminal charges, a statement that has stunned legal observers. Sandusky’s comments, they said, could be used by prosecutors trying to convict him of child sex-abuse charges.

“Mr. Sandusky goes on worldwide television and admits he did everything the prosecution claims he did, except for the ultimate act of rape or sodomy? If I were a prosecutor, I’d be stunned,” said Lynne Abraham, the former district attorney of Philadelphia. “I was stunned, and then I was revolted.”

The state grand jury investigation that led to Sandusky’s arrest followed a trail that goes back at least 13 years, leading to questions from some quarters about whether law enforcement moved too slowly.

The grand jury report detailed a 1998 investigation by Penn State police, begun after an 11-year-old boy’s mother complained that Sandusky had showered with her son in the football facilities. Then-District Attorney Ray Gricar declined to file charges.

Another apparent missed opportunity came in the 2002 incident that McQueary reported to Paterno.

The case took on new urgency about two years ago, when a woman complained to officials at her local school district that Sandusky had sexually assaulted her son. School district officials banned him from school grounds and contacted police, leading to an investigation by state police, the attorney general’s office and the grand jury. Gov. Tom Corbett took the case on a referral from the Centre County district attorney in early 2009 while he was serving as attorney general.

He bristled Tuesday when asked whether it was fair for people to criticize the pace of the probe.

“People that are saying that are ill-informed as to how investigations are conducted, how witnesses are developed, how backup information, corroborative information is developed, and they really don’t know what they’re talking about,” he told reporters.

The attorney general’s office declined to comment on the pace of the investigation.

The Patriot-News of Harrisburg reported Monday that only one trooper was assigned to the case after the state took it over in 2009. After Corbett became governor early this year and his former investigations supervisor in the attorney general’s office, Frank Noonan, became state police commissioner, seven more investigators were put on it, the newspaper said.

Printed on Thursday, November 17, 2011 as: Email outlines reaction to alleged Sandusky attack, adds twist to case

Penn State students and others gather off campus following the firing of football coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier amid the growing furor over how the school handled sex abuse allegations against an assistant coach on Wednesday. (Photo Courtesy of Matt Rourke)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

UT alumnus Brad Kurz was writing a paper Wednesday night when he heard Pennsylvania State University’s Board of Trustees had fired long-time football coach Joe Paterno. Moments later, Kurz heard a police officer pass by his room.

“He said ‘there is a mob of students trying to break into the main building,’” Kurz said. “He came back a few moments later and said the students were heading towards Beaver Street, the main site of the protest [Wednesday].”

Paterno’s dismissal and the subsequent student riots after the announcement made national headlines yesterday night and spurred conversation on many college campuses. Kurz said students were in a state of shock that quickly turned to anger after the announcement, because no one had heard anything about it before. Penn State’s Board of Trustees dismissed Paterno for failing to report rape accusations against his former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

Kurz graduated from UT with a degree in psychology and liberal arts honors last spring and currently studies higher education administration at Penn State. Kurz said before he got to Penn State he would joke with his friends that Paterno was like a mascot they only let out for games. He said his perception of Paterno has changed since he got to Penn State.

“Just being around and seeing his impact, you have to grow close to ‘Joe Pa,’” Kurz said. “I don’t even know half of the stories, but what I do know is so impactful, so incredible. I’d be blind not to be impacted.”

Kurz said although there is an ethical debate surrounding Paterno’s actions, students still want him to stay.

“The feeling here is that ‘Joe Pa’ is Penn State,” Kurz said. “He and have wife have created traditions here and have given so much money to charities. Everywhere you go, you see their names.”

Rachel Perrotta, political science sophomore at Penn State, said students will hold a candlelight vigil for the victims of Jerry Sandusky Friday night. A group of Penn State alumni have also recently partnered with the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, an organization providing support for victims of sexual abuse, with a goal to raise $500,000, one dollar for each of Penn States’ alumni, according to the organization’s website.

Paterno released a statement Wednesday saying he was disappointed with the Board of Trustees decision, but he had to accept it. Before the Board announced their decision he said he would retire at the end of the season.

“This is a tragedy,” Paterno said in the statement. “It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”

Glenn Frankel, dean of the School of Journalism, said the only moment equivalent to the firing of Joe Paterno is when Margaret Thatcher stepped down as prime minister of the U.K.

“It was a very sudden thing,” Frankel said. “She thought she was going to be there until the end, then the wise men of the Conservative Party came to her and told her ‘it’s over.’”

This sits very well with the modern American narrative that no institution can be trusted and everyone in authority is like the emperor with no clothes, Frankel said.

“Anyone or any institution that has power and authority over other people needs to be looked at and held accountable,” Frankel said. “That applies to Joe Paterno, Penn State, UT and any other institution.”

Student Government president Natalie Butler said although she thought Paterno was a great football coach the incident was tragic and she felt bad for all of the victims.

“I don’t think people in that position have a higher moral obligation,” Butler said in response to allegations that Paterno should have known better. “It is unfortunate this is the way his career had to end.”

Engineering senior Phillipe Brady said he always thought of Paterno as the grandfather of college football and a stand up guy. He said Paterno was to Penn State what Mack Brown is to UT — they represent all that’s good at their university.

“I don’t think that would happen here, and if it did I don’t know what I would do,” Brady said. “It’s frightening to see someone that good fall as far as Joe Paterno.” 

Joe Paterno, legendary head football coach of Penn State’s Nittany Lions, announced Wednesday that he would retire at the end of the season amid a child abuse scandal that has rocked State College and captivated the country.

“The Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status,” the coach said in a statement, “I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can.”

Paterno — who declined to notify police after being told that his friend, former defensive coordinator and heir-apparent Jerry Sandusky raped a 10-year-old boy in the Penn State football facilities — believed that continuing to serve as the face of the university for five more Saturday’s after facilitating the most devastating cover-up in sports history was somehow an appropriate response.

Wednesday evening, Penn State’s Board of Trustees declined Paterno’s bizarre offer to finish the season and fired him along with the university’s president, Graham Spanier.

Paterno, until a week ago the most beloved coach in college athletics, preached integrity, honor and selflessness to his student-athletes for more than 40 years. After failing to protect an unknown number of young children from rape at the hands of his close friend in the football facilities where he ruled supreme, a quiet and immediate resignation seemed like a low hurdle and an opportunity to end his tenure with a scintilla of dignity.

Instead, Paterno fumbled the opportunity to impart on his students a final lesson: Even in the face of great personal failure and disappointment it is possible to act with integrity and to take responsibility for one’s mistakes. It is an unfitting end for a once-great teacher and coach.

Michael Vitris
Third-year UT law student

Late Wednesday night, the Penn State University Board of Trustees announced its rejection of legendary head coach Joe Paterno’s offer to resign at the end of the season and fired him and the university president. However, the large gathering of students in front of Paterno’s house initially as a show of support for their beloved and longtime coach slowly transformed into a riot. Public utilities along the street were damaged, and, in a scene frequently replayed on media outlets, a news van was flipped over and beaten.

Violent rioting is an easy thing to condemn. The various Occupy protests over the past few months have showed the power of nonviolent protest and America’s collective distaste for violent confrontations. The outburst at Penn State can be, and has been, criticized as supporting a man who did nothing to follow up on a case of molestation of children over the past nine years that he knew about. In these two important senses, the rioting was reprehensible and embarrassing for a storied and respected institution, and it did a tremendous disservice to the man the protesters were trying to defend.

Many journalists have criticized the protesters and have characterized the campus as appearing to care more about football than about the victims of the alleged crimes. Yet the media’s recent focus on the rioting itself, the image of the flipped news van and the thousands of students marching the street has much the same effect. The victims should be the center of the story.

Most students at Penn State did not march, and most of those who marched did so peacefully. Judging the entire campus by the actions of a few of its students is unfair. While those responsible for the violence should be punished, they should not be given the power to change the narrative by outraged journalists.

The story of Paterno’s firing can be seen as a series of knee-jerk reactions. The Board of Trustees overreacted by immediately firing Paterno, fearing the power of a sex abuse scandal; students overreacted by rioting; and many in the media have overreacted by stressing the absurdity of the protest and further distorting the real issue: the victims.

The year was 1994, and Penn State had just beaten arch-rival Michigan, en route to its perfect football season. I was 3 years old as my dad hoisted me on his shoulder so I could see the team returning from Ann Arbor.

Seventeen years later, in the wake of one of the biggest scandals in NCAA history, Joe Paterno, the longest-tenured and most winningest coach in D-I college football, was fired by the Penn State Board of Trustees late Wednesday night.

My parents will have to correct me on this, but by the time I was 3, there were four non-Sesame Street people I could name if they appeared on television. One of them was Paterno, and he was the only one that mattered.

I was born in State College, Pa. to two foreign engineering graduate students who quickly learned to embrace the football fever that defines the small college town — even if huddling with 100,000 Nittany Lion faithfuls at Beaver Stadium in November will also get you a different kind of fever.

Over the weekend, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office filed criminal charges against Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State defensive coordinator, for 40 counts of sexual abuse of children with nine different victims. A sickening, 23-page grand jury investigation alleges that Sandusky would bring boys from a program for troubled youth through the Penn State facilities. In one particular incident in 2002, Sandusky was caught performing anal sex on a 10-year-old boy in the facility by a graduate assistant, who informed Paterno, who then reported the incident to Penn State’s athletic director, Tim Curley. The issue was never brought to the authorities.

Curley and Gary Schultz, the university’s senior vice president for finance and business, have also been charged for failing to report the sexual assault to authorities and for lying to the grand jury about the incident. Additionally, the trustees decided to oust Penn State President Graham Spanier for approving Curley’s handling of the affair in 2002.

This is where Paterno comes in. He reported the incident to Curley, therefore absolving himself from legal fault. But how one of the most highly revered public figures in the country failed to notify the authorities or even follow up on the incident as Sandusky popped in and out of the university’s facilities for the next nine years is what has shattered the previously unshatterable and questioned the previously unquestionable.

College athletics is a compliance-based industry; Officials aren’t paid for doing what is right but rather paid for doing what is not wrong. And as a society, we tend to ride along, shifting our frame of reference from the moral to the legal.

But every once in a while, an inhumane, stomach-turning incident such as this one can re-shift that focus. Paterno made a conscious decision to aim higher than the illegal but not higher than the immoral.

This is what crushes people.

Paterno’s reputation was never solely based on a winning percentage. It was how he weaved character and academics through the seams of the navy blue-and-white fabric and always seemed to be the one teaching and inspiring other coaches to do the same.

It took 46 years to create one of the most respected and recognizable brands in the country, and certain individuals deemed it too risky to derail it, especially considering the fickle nature of our perception-based higher education system.

The institutional similarities of Penn State and Texas are many, ranging from similar undergraduate enrollment numbers to a large football stadium and from similar U.S. News and World Report rankings to similar Playboy’s Party School rankings. Penn State’s arena is called the Bryce Jordan Center, named after a Penn State president who is also a former UT president.

But to ask, “What if this happened at Texas?” does a disservice to the comparison. “JoePa” and the Nittany Lions aren’t part of the town’s identity — it is the identity.

It has the kind of power that can win over two foreign graduate engineering students with no background in football.

I think back to the hazy memory of 3-year-old me as part of the crowd ready to give a hero’s welcome to the victorious team. I don’t remember if Paterno made a speech that night. I just picture the legend who, no matter how much older I got, seemed to stay the same, pacing the sidelines with his navy blue jacket and long out-of-style glasses. And now, all I’m left saying is:

Say it ain’t so, Joe.

Say it ain’t so.

Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, leaves campus while reporters ask him about the accusations surrounding Penn State.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Support for keeping Joe Paterno in his job coaching Penn State football is eroding among the board of trustees, threatening to end the 84-year-old coach’s career amid a child sex abuse scandal involving a former assistant and one-time heir apparent.

A person familiar with the trustees’ discussions and who used the term “eroding” said it was unclear what the consequences for Paterno will be and that a decision could be rendered before the board meets on Friday.

Penn State President Graham Spanier also has lost support among the Board of Trustees, the person said but, again, how much was unclear.

Paterno’s son, Scott, said his father hasn’t spoken with Penn State officials or trustees about stepping down. Addressing reporters outside his father’s house, he said Joe Paterno plans to not only coach in Saturday’s game against Nebraska but for the long haul.

“No one has asked Joe to resign,” Scott Paterno told The Associated Press in a text message.

Penn State administrators canceled Paterno’s weekly news conference during which he was expected to field questions about the sex abuse scandal involving former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. The former defensive coordinator of Paterno’s two national championship teams in the 1980s was arrested Saturday on charges of sexually abusing eight boys over 15 years. His lawyer said Sandusky is innocent.

Scott Paterno said the decision to cancel was made by Spanier’s office and that his father was disappointed.

“I know you guys have a lot of questions. I was hoping I could answer them today. We’ll try to do it as soon as we can,” Joe Paterno said to a group of reporters as he got into his car. About a dozen students stood nearby, chanting, “We love you, Joe.”

A second person familiar with the board’s discussions, said it was focused on the horrific aspects of the charges against Sandusky; two Penn State officials have also been charged in the scandal, accused of failing to notify authorities when told Sandusky had assaulted a boy in a shower used by the football team.

Trustee David Joyner said he was unaware if any decision had been made on Paterno’s future.

Authorities said that Paterno, who testified in the grand jury proceedings that led to the charges against Sandusky, is not a target of the investigation. But the state police commissioner chastised him and other school officials for not doing enough to try to stop the suspected abuse.

Meanwhile, another potential victim has contacted authorities.

The man, now an adult, contacted the department on Sunday after seeing media accounts of Sandusky’s arrest, Lt. David Young at the Montoursville station said. Investigators took a statement from him and forwarded it to the Rockview station for officers there to pursue, Young said.

The Patriot-News of Harrisburg, which first reported that the man had come forward, said he is in his 20s, knew Sandusky from The Second Mile charity the former coach founded in 1977 and had never told his parents or authorities about the alleged encounters from about a decade ago.

Young declined to release the man’s name or provide details about what he claims occurred.

The Patriot-News published a rare full, front-page editorial calling for this season to be Paterno’s last and for Spanier to resign immediately.

Published on Wednesday, Novermber 9, 2011 as: Paterno's job could be in jeopardy