Penn State students split over Joe Paterno legacy

For the CDTJanuary 22, 2013 

— One year after the death of Joe Paterno, many Penn State students continue to celebrate the memory of the former Nittany Lions head football coach.

For several students, this support has remained constant amid the troubling events of the past year associated with the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

“Honestly, what I’ve seen around campus, people still think Joe Paterno is a man of honor and character,” said Penn State junior Rishi Mittal. “Personally, nothing really changed (for me). And for other people, I’ve only heard great things about Joe Paterno.

“I feel that all of these allegations haven’t been proven. The evidence wasn’t even there in the Freeh report at all. So, my opinion of Joe Paterno has never changed whatsoever.”

Junior Dominique Smith also said that her feelings about Paterno have not changed over the course of the past year.

“In light of everything that has happened, it still doesn’t downplay all that he has done for the school and his legacy,” said Smith. “I still think that he’s an amazing man, and that he did a lot for the school.”

Freshman Alec Broniszewski believes it is important to evaluate Paterno’s whole body of work as opposed to one singular event in his life.

“I still think he’s a very inspirational person,” said Broniszewski. “You can’t just take a part for a whole and just consider one little glimpse of someone’s life and all of the sudden transform his entire person and character. I think it’s inappropriate and just a little bit unfair.”

On the other hand, some Penn State students are troubled by Paterno’s actions or lack thereof amid the Sandusky scandal.

“I would say that he is a guy who made at least one pretty serious mistake, and that doesn’t erase all of the good things that he did, but it can’t be ignored in the face of the good things that he did either,” said graduate student Thomas McCarthy.

Junior Curtis David has been a lifelong fan of Penn State, yet the events of the past year have made it difficult for him to support Paterno.

“Regardless of what legal obligations that he fulfilled in passing information on to superiors, I believe that in his position, there was a moral obligation to do everything in his power to ensure nothing was going on, and he didn’t do that,” said David. “So, over the past year, I have stopped defending Joe, and until related trials are over and all truth is revealed, I believe that he was partly responsible for Sandusky being able to prey on innocent children because of his status within the Penn State athletic department.”

Junior Nicole Pastore doesn’t think it’s fair to now question what Paterno did or did not do concerning the scandal.

“I just don’t know what to believe,” she said. “He’s not here to say anything, so it was really hard to form any kind of opinion.

“I support the values that he had for this school. Even if maybe he didn’t, I mean I’m not gonna say he didn’t, but if he didn’t follow his own values, I still think it’s good the way he built up our school.”

Freshman and Bellefonte native Zachary Catherman is unhappy with how Paterno’s career and life ended, yet he is thankful that the hiring of current head coach Bill O’Brien has prompted such a smooth transition at Penn State.

“We were all really upset about what happened to Joe Paterno, but Bill brought it back,” said Catherman. “We got another coach. We have another coach we can rally behind. We have a coach that loves the players. It’s not good how it happened, but the transition couldn’t have been any better.”

Paterno’s lasting legacy remains to be questioned.

Yet, for many Penn State students like Mittal, one short phrase encompassing three simple words will define his legacy forever.

“Success with honor,” said Mittal. “That’s all it is: success with honor.”

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