STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Penn State’s student-run newspaper is objecting to the university’s plans to honor the 50th anniversary of former head coach Joe Paterno’s first game later this month.
The Daily Collegian’s Friday editorial says Penn State “needs a reality check.”
The editorial says undergraduates know Paterno only through the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, court fights or alumni who “can’t accept” that their time at the university is past. It also says Paterno is no longer a community hero, and questions whether he deserves to be commemorated.
“This is our Penn State. It is a Penn State without Joe Paterno,” the editorial says. “It is a Penn State that is still trying to rebuild, make amends and propel forward. Those of us here now are beyond ready to move on.”
Penn State’s athletic department on Thursday announced plans to commemorate the anniversary on Sept. 17, when the football team hosts Temple. It sparked a backlash on social networks by people critical of Paterno’s role in the Sandusky scandal.
The editorial faults the university administration’s judgment, saying “this seems an odd way” to put the Sandusky scandal behind it.
Lauren Davis, the newspaper’s opinions editor who authored the editorial, said the editorial had drawn a heavy response, particularly on social media, with a wide range of opinions.
A Penn State spokeswoman said the university is declining comment.
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 former defensive coordinator, was arrested in November 2011 for child sexual abuse.
His firing came amid questions over whether he should have alerted police after being told in 2002 that a graduate assistant had seen Sandusky in the Penn State showers with a young boy. Paterno died in January 2012 of lung cancer.
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, Eric Barron, has said the allegation was not substantiated in court or tested by any other process. Paterno was never charged.