At Penn State, 1 more chance to remember Paterno
The man in the white dress shirt, Penn State tie and rolled-up
khakis jogged through the Beaver Stadium tunnel and on to the field
before slowing down at the finish line – the 50-yard-line.
It was alumnus Gus Curtin’s tribute to the iconic look once
sported in the same stadium on fall weekends by the late coach Joe
A weekend during which the annual Blue-White spring game gave
fans a glimpse into the Nittany Lions’ future under new coach Bill
O’Brien also allowed people like Curtin to remember the past. From
the bouquets of blue-and-white carnations left at the bronzed
Paterno statue outside the stadium to the charity 5K race run in
Paterno’s honor Sunday, fans paid tribute to the Hall of Fame coach
who died in January at age 85.
”It’s nice to know that the support and the love is all there,
because all the people who love and support … he’s been a part of
them for so many years,” Paterno’s widow, Sue Paterno, said before
the race Sunday. ”They’re feeling a loss like we’re feeling a
loss. Our (loss) is maybe more acute.”
The spring football game marked the first event at the stadium
since her husband’s death. Many alumni still question the
circumstances behind Paterno’s ouster last November by university
trustees in the aftermath of child sexual abuse charges against
The retired defensive coordinator has maintained his innocence
and awaits trial. Paterno testified before a grand jury
investigating Sandusky that he relayed a 2002 allegation brought to
him by a graduate assistant to his campus superiors, including the
administrator overseeing the police department.
Authorities have said Paterno wasn’t a target of the probe. The
Board of Trustees ousted him, citing in part a moral obligation to
do more to alert authorities outside the school, and a ”failure of
Last week, Penn State agreed to provide millions in payments and
benefits to Paterno’s estate and family members under the late
football coach’s employment contract, although a family lawyer says
the Paternos did not sign away their right to sue.
But unless the subject came up in conversation, there were no
outward displays by fans of protest against school administrators
or trustees over the weekend. Fans were eager to see what the team
looked like under O’Brien.
”It seems like he’s genuinely excited to do new things and to
put a good team out there, but he’s also respectful of tradition,”
said Curtin, 39, of Annapolis, Md. ”So far I like him.”
Inside the stadium, there were no apparent mentions during the
spring game of Paterno’s name over the sound system. No images of
Paterno were seen on video boards.
Like Curtin, dozens of alumni, students and other spectators
wore attire that offered some kind of reminder of Paterno.
Some people donned ”Joe Knows Football” T-shirts, a play off
the old Nike ad campaign slogan featuring Bo Jackson.
Others wore T-shirts or sweatshirts that read ”Team Paterno”
on the front and ”Make an Impact” on the back – the latter phrase
referencing a command from Joe Paterno’s father, Angelo, to his
The ”Team Paterno” shirts were a gift to some donors for the
cause of Sunday’s race, Special Olympics of Pennsylvania, a charity
long championed by Sue Paterno.
”We were in it together,” Sue Paterno said when asked about
the ”Team Paterno” phrase. ”I said, `I help you all the time.
Now you help me.’ He got hooked … It turned out to be a real good
tagline this year.”
The charity said Sunday it hoped to raise nearly $300,000 from
the race, which would triple the amount it raised last year.
”I’m 55 years-old, and I’ve never known another coach here,”
Rich Ellers, a lifelong season-ticket holder from Centre Hall, said
Saturday at the Paterno statue. ”His spirit will live on. He’ll
never be gone in that sense.”
The statue served as a gathering point for mourners after
Paterno died, and visitors returned to the site in droves again
this weekend. One effort organized by alumni left 409 bouquets of
the blue-and-white carnations at the site – one for each of
Paterno’s Division I-record career victories.
”Obviously I miss Joe,” 2011 Penn State graduate Erin Davis
said at the statue. ”He’s like a grandfather to this
The small cemetery in State College where Paterno is buried has
seen increased visitors since his death. Many well-wishers have
left flowers there, too, and Penn State hats. Police say some
mourners have held candlelight vigils. A family spokesman and
police say there have been no major problems, though the cemetery
last week decided to start closing at dusk.
The Paterno family is planning to start a ”Paterno Foundation”
charity, from which sales of a DVD of the Jan. 26 memorial service
for Paterno are being sold. The family has said proceeds will go to
Sue Paterno said she no plans to leave the modest ranch home in
town where she and her husband raised their family. She plans to
continue helping Special Olympics, including the state Summer Games
held on the Penn State campus each year.
”Absolutely, they’re my people,” she said about working
Special Olympians. ”They become your buddies. This gives you a
Sue Paterno also offered backing to her husband’s successor, the
42-year-old O’Brien. She called Penn State a ”magic place.”
”The guy has got a job to do, and we’ve got to support him,”
Sue Paterno said. ”Joe was in that position at one time, a little
bit younger. But I hope (the O’Briens) love it here as much as we