Penn St adds plan to mark Paterno debut; sparks fury online

FILE - In this Dec. 6, 1973, file photo, Joe Paterno, head coach of the Penn State football team, clutches the Lambert Trophy in New York, after it was awarded to his team as emblematic of collegiate grid supremacy in the East. Legends tend to linger in college football even after they are gone. At Penn State, getting out from under Paterno's shadow is more complicated than the typical transition from a coaching giant. (AP Photo/Dave Pickoff, File)

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Penn State’s athletic department on Thursday announced plans to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Joe Paterno’s first game as coach, a move that sparked backlash on social networks by people critical of Paterno’s role in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

The university announced plans Thursday to mark the anniversary when the Nittany Lions football team hosts Temple on Sept. 17.

University spokesman Jeff Nelson told The Associated Press that Penn State plans to announce specifics of the commemoration to ticket holders during the week of the game. He declined further comment on the plans.

Paterno coached at Penn State for 46 seasons, becoming college football’s winningest coach. But the coach was fired by the school’s board of trustees shortly after Sandusky, who was his defensive coordinator, was arrested in November 2011 for child sexual abuse. Paterno died in January 2012 of lung cancer.

The announcement to honor Paterno’s first game was met with disdain on social media sites from those who partially blame Paterno for the scandal.

In May, unsealed court documents said an alleged Sandusky victim said he complained to Paterno about Sandusky in 1976 and was rebuffed. The university’s president has said the allegation was not substantiated in court or tested by any other process. Paterno was never charged with a crime related to the scandal.

Sandusky was convicted on 45 of 48 charges in June 2012 and is serving a 30- to 60-year sentence.

Moving forward from the scandal has proven a difficult challenge for Penn State, requiring leaders to balance distancing the university from the scandal while juggling the wishes of ardent Penn State supporters who credit Paterno for giving the university an identity to be proud of.

“Depending on their position people may look at him differently, but it doesn’t change that he created that here. Or helped to create that here,” Athletic Director Sandy Barbour told the AP in August.

The statue of Paterno was removed from outside Beaver Stadium on July 22, 2012 and highly visible, university sponsored signs of him are mostly hard to find. Paterno’s name is still on the campus library, which was built in part by his donations.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s