Memorial for Paterno produces anger at his firing

  • Follow College

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Crediting him with building not just better athletes but better men, former Penn State football stars and others paid tribute to Joe Paterno in a huge campus memorial service Thursday that exposed a strong undercurrent of anger over his firing.

Back | Next
Jay Paterno (center) holds hands with ex-Penn State players Todd Blackledge (left) and Chris Marrone as he asks the crowd to join in saying the Lord's Prayer during a memorial service for Joe Paterno.   ALEX BRANDON/ASSOCIATED PRESS
ALEX BRANDON/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Jay Paterno (center) holds hands with ex-Penn State players Todd Blackledge (left) and Chris Marrone as he asks the crowd to join in saying the Lord's Prayer during a memorial service for Joe Paterno.

In a 2½-hour gathering that capped three days of mourning on campus, Nike chairman and CEO Phil Knight instantly brought the near-capacity crowd of 12,000 to its feet in thunderous applause when he defended the coach’s handling of child-sex allegations leveled against a former assistant. Paterno was fired over the episode two months ago.

“This much is clear to me: If there is a villain in this tragedy, it lies in that investigation and not in Joe Paterno’s response,” Knight said.

Paterno’s widow, Sue, was among those rising to their feet.

Later, Paterno’s son Jay received a standing ovation when he declared: “Joe Paterno left this world with a clear conscience.”

The ceremony at the university basketball arena was filled with lavish praise that probably would have embarrassed Paterno, who died of lung cancer Sunday at 85 after racking up more wins – 409 – than any other major-college football coach and leading his team to two national championships in his 46 seasons.

He was saluted for his commitment to sportsmanship, loyalty, teamwork, character, academics and “winning with honor.” He was called a good father, a good husband, a good neighbor, a good friend, a good teacher.

About midway through the ceremony, Knight became the first speaker to explicitly address the scandal, and the audience let loose as if it had been waiting for someone just to raise the topic.

Only one member of the university administration – dean of the college of liberal arts – and no one from the Board of Trustees spoke at the memorial, arranged primarily by the Paterno family.

Among the speakers were star athletes from each decade of Paterno’s career, including Michael Robinson, who played from 2002 to 2005, quarterback Todd Blackledge from the 1980s and Jimmy Cefalo, a star in the 1970s. All three went on to play in the NFL.

A public viewing for Paterno was held on campus on Tuesday and Wednesday, and he was buried Wednesday afternoon at a State College cemetery.

FIRING LOSES SUPPORT

HARRISBURG, Pa. – A national poll shows falling support for the decision by Penn State trustees to fire the late Joe Paterno.

The Seton Hall Sports Poll released Thursday indicated that 42 percent of respondents polled nationwide support the football coach’s firing. That’s down from 55 percent in November.

Forty percent say he should have been allowed to retire after decades as coach. Nearly two-thirds say Paterno’s legacy has been tarnished. Only about 18 percent don’t think so.

Trustees fired Paterno in November, citing his failure to go to police with an account he’d been told of child sex abuse by an assistant. Paterno died of lung cancer Sunday.

Pollsters surveyed 1,108 people across the country. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

– Associated Press

loading...
Top headlines

Rep. Sims won't run again

State Rep. Barbara Sims said today she will not seek re-election to the Georgia House of Representatives, but will serve the remainder of her 2016 term. The announcement was made in a news release ...
Search Augusta jobs