From bumper stickers to signs posted by a few businesses to the occasional T-shirt, reminders of Joe Paterno sprinkle Happy Valley.
Most cues are subtle enough to make an outsider look twice. Like the decals with the outline of the bespectacled Paterno’s distinctive face, or the shirt with the image of the longtime Penn State coach’s trademark look of rolled-up khakis and sneakers.
A year after his death, Paterno and a reputation tarnished in the aftermath of the child sex abuse scandal involving retired assistant coach Jerry Sandusky remain sensitive topics for groups of alumni, former players, staffers and community residents.
The Hall of Fame coach died of lung cancer on Jan. 22, 2012, at age 85. Today – exactly a year after his death – community residents have organized a vigil at a downtown mural that includes a depiction of Paterno.
A family spokesman has said the Paternos would not take part.
Most critics are angered by how school leaders handled Paterno’s ouster as coach and the explosive findings of the internal investigation led by former FBI director Louis Freeh that put part of the blame on Paterno.
Others say the school hasn’t done enough to honor a 46-year career in which Paterno was known for focusing on academics and philanthropy as well as football.
“The university should lead the way and not sit in silence,” said Ed Stine, 62, of Gaithersburg, Md., a member of the alumni watchdog group “Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship.” He was one at least one of at least four dozen audience members who applauded or praised speakers who paid tribute to Paterno at the meeting.
The man who built Penn State’s program into one of college football’s marquee brands was fired in November 2011, days after Sandusky’s arrest on molestation and other charges. The trustees had said Paterno was ousted in part because he had a moral obligation to pass on to police outside the university a 2002 allegation that was relayed to him by a graduate assistant.
SENIOR BOWL: Former Louisiana State University star Tyrann Mathieu attended practice in hopes of meeting with NFL coaches
He says his ambitions haven’t changed even if his days as the “Honey Badger” ended with his college career. The 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist watched ex-teammate Lavar Edwards and the rest of the Senior Bowl’s South team practice on Monday.
Mathieu says he still feels he’ll be a Pro Bowler but knows he’ll face tough questions from NFL teams. He says recent months have been about “getting a grip on myself mentally, emotionally and spiritually.”
Mathieu was dismissed from the LSU team last August for failing a drug test. He was arrested in late October along with three other former LSU players after police said they found marijuana at Mathieu’s apartment.