UNIVERSITY PARK — In his only scheduled Centre County speaking appearance, “Paterno” biography author Joe Posnanski discussed Joe Paterno’s final days, the Louis Freeh report, the Penn State football sanctions and a multitude of other topics Friday in the HUB Robeson Center’s Alumni Hall.
The event, as part of the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism’s “Conversations” series, marked the first time Posnanski spoke on Penn State’s campus since the morning after Paterno was fired. Malcolm Moran, the Knight chairman at the Curley Center, moderated the event.
Posnanski was a senior columnist for Sports Illustrated and wrote a column for The Kansas City Star. “Paterno,” released Aug. 21, debuted at No. 1 on The New York Times’ best-seller list.
Posnanski told the hundreds of students, alumni, residents and Penn State fans gathered Friday that writing “Paterno” was a difficult task. The author said he was constantly under a microscope after the release of the grand jury presentment that implicated Jerry Sandusky in the sex abuse scandal the resulted in Paterno’s firing.
Though he was being pulled in many directions when the biography took an unexpected turn, Posnanski said he continued to do what he set out to do — and what Paterno and his family told him to do: “Write the truth.”
“I tried very hard to give people the facts and let them decide for themselves how they feel,” he said.
Posnanski said he tried to keep himself out of the book, but he described one powerful scene that was almost left out of the final edit.
During Paterno’s final days before dying from complications due to lung cancer, he asked the author what he thought about everything that had transpired. Posnanski looked at the embattled coach and said, “Because you’re Joe Paterno, you should have done more.” Paterno looked back at him and said, “I wish I had done more.”
Posnanski’s candidness in how he wrote and how he spoke Friday resonated with Penn State senior Zach Hottinger.
“I really enjoyed the fact that he talked to us like (Paterno) was in the room,” he said, adding that he got a “friend” vibe from the author.
Posnanski said many more books, in addition to his about Paterno’s life, can be written from the fallout of the scandal, but he is not going to be the one to do it. He said whenever he is asked what his next project will be, he always answers “easier.”
Matt Morgan can be reached at 235-3928. Follow him on Twitter @MetroMattMorgan