Jay Paterno saw his father’s firing from Penn State like the assassination of Julius Caesar, and Joe Paterno’s treatment by the media and others like the Salem witch trials.
Paterno didn’t mince words about how he feels his father was treated in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal in his new book, “Paterno Legacy: Enduring Lessons from the Life and Death of My Father.”
And he was especially hard on members of the Penn State board of trustees who voted to fire Joe Paterno in November 2011, which to the son was an act of betrayal that could have come from a Shakespearean play.
“I knew many of them,” Jay Paterno wrote in a chapter titled “The Firing, Tempest and Et Tu Brute.”
“They’d walked into my parents’ home after many football games over the years,” he wrote. “Some brought friends and clients to impress with a postgame meal at Paterno’s home. But this night those same people on the board had fired him. My mind recalled deep, long-running connections.”
Jay Paterno singled out former Penn State trustees Paul Suhey, Jesse Arnelle, Ed Hintz, John Surma and Steve Garban, expressing his surprise and disappointment that none of them reached out to the family or offered to talk with Paterno before making the decision.
But his comments about Anne Riley were the most personal.
An early memory for the son is Joe Paterno performing CPR on Riley’s father, who was visiting the Paterno home. Ridge Riley would be taken from the home by ambulance, but was later pronounced dead.
“In her father’s moment of greatest need, my mother and father tried to save his life,” Paterno wrote. “In my father’s hour of greatest need, where was she?”
Jay Paterno wasted no time in the book delving into the Sandusky scandal, which rocked the university and ultimately cost the elder Paterno his job.
In the first chapter, “The Elephant in the Room,” Jay Paterno criticizes the Freeh report, the internal Penn State investigation that implicated his father and top university administrators in covering up child sexual abuse allegations against Sandusky.
Jay Paterno and supporters of his father are fighting in Centre County Court to overturn NCAA sanctions against Penn State that were levied shortly after Louis Freeh, the former FBI director, delivered the findings in July 2012.
Paterno filed a federal lawsuit against Penn State this week, saying he was made toxic in the college football community because of his dismissal from the university and its timing with the Freeh report and the sanctions.
Jay Paterno, in his book, maintains that his father didn’t know the extent of Sandusky’s abuse, that the immediate media focus wrongly fell on Joe Paterno and that Penn State’s internal investigation erroneously concluded the legendary coach was involved in a cover-up.
“The morning after my father had been fired, I was seated at his desk, and he sat in his robe in another chair looking at me. ‘Jay, I never told you guys about Jerry because I didn’t know if it was true. I certainly couldn’t walk into the office and accuse a guy of something that I didn’t witness or know to be true. I didn’t know that he’d done all that stuff. I had no idea. I just didn’t know.’ ”
Paterno said that Sandusky fooled many in the community, not just his father.
“I am not writing to exonerate my father because he did not commit a crime that needs a pardon,” Paterno wrote. “If anything, he is guilty of failing to possess the God-like qualities ascribed to him by others, qualities that Joe was the first to insist he never had.”
The book hit shelves unexpectedly this week at the Barnes and Noble Booksellers store on East College Avenue.
Billed as the insider view of Paterno’s life and career, the book wasn’t due out until September. Jay Paterno himself said on Twitter as recently as Monday that it would be weeks before the release.
Paterno did not respond to a call Wednesday regarding the timing of the release, but a representative for publisher Triumph Books said it’s not uncommon for stores to start selling before the official release date if they have stock.
Jay Paterno dedicated a large chunk of the book to his experiences being raised by and working under the legendary coach.
He also gave a rare glimpse inside the Paterno family during the week in November 2011 that began with Sandusky’s indictment and ended with Joe Paterno’s firing, and into the final days of the coach’s life.
The book’s foreword was written by Nike co-founder Phil Knight, a longtime family friend who delivered a eulogy for Joe Paterno, but who later removed the coach’s name from a Nike building when the Freeh report was released.
Knight expressed regret for the decision. He joined the mob mentality of calls to distance the company from Paterno, only to later re-read the Freeh report and find its conclusions flawed, Knight said.
“No rewinds,” Knight wrote. “I have to live with this.”