Penn State hasn’t formally memorialized former football coach Joe Paterno since he died in January 2012. The following summer, the university removed the statue of Paterno that had sat outside Beaver Stadium, and it’s been gone ever since.
This weekend, the school will pay an organized tribute to the man whose 46-year run leading the program ended in 2011 amid the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal.
Tucked into a Sept. 1 athletic department release about gameday promotions was a note that Penn State will be "commemorating the 50th anniversary of Coach Paterno's first game as Penn State head coach." That’ll happen on Sept. 17, when Penn State plays Temple in State College.
A Sept. 15 statement from athletic director Sandy Barbour:
This year marks the 50th Anniversary of Joe Paterno's first game and first victory as head coach. On September 17, commemorative activities will focus on the commitment he had to student-athletes and academics, as well as highlights of the 1966 game.
This Saturday at Beaver Stadium as we face Temple University, we will highlight the student-athletes he impacted. Members of the 1966 team, co-captains Mike Irwin and John Runnells, will be participating in the on-field coin toss. Further in-game introductions of players will take place, along with video presentations on the impact to student-athletes.
Coach Paterno wanted academic success not only for his players but also for every student who came through Penn State. Together with his wife, Sue, they helped countless students become leaders and earn a Penn State diploma. Our plans are consistent with the wishes of the Paterno family as well, with a focus on the players and their accomplishments at Penn State and beyond.
Onward State writes that Paterno has made brief appearances in the last few years "in several pump up videos shown before kickoff."
After Sandusky’s sexual abuse of children came to light, Penn State commissioned a report to discover more about it. The report, conducted by former FBI director Louis Freeh, concluded that Paterno and three other senior Penn State administrators – the president, the athletic director and a vice president — had "failed to protect" children from abuse.
Since his firing in 2011 and his death months later, Paterno’s legacy has been a point of sharp contention inside and outside the Penn State community. His family commissioned its own report, which shed more favorable light on the coach.
As Penn State and its insurers have worked through more of the legal fallout, more allegations have come to light against Paterno’s program. One Sandusky accuser testified he told Paterno about Sandusky’s abuse in 1976 and the coach responded that he had "a football season to worry about."