Although gone, Paterno's legacy will live forever
Published: Thursday, January 26, 2012
Updated: Friday, January 27, 2012 11:01
Joseph Vincent Paterno, the man who solidified himself as a legend throughout his 61 years, 46 as head coach, at Pennsylvania State University, died Sunday of lung cancer and without a doubt, a broken heart at the age of 85.
The beloved coach leaves behind a mild-stained legacy, one forever tainted by the Jerry Sandusky child abuse allegations which Paterno himself acknowledged by saying, "In hindsight, I wish I would have done more."
More in the sense of his legal responsibility, not his moral one.
The tenacious football coach, with his black-rimmed glasses, rolled khaki pants and black shoes, did more for Penn State University than any other athletic coach in history.
He made it a must for academics to be held to a higher standard than athletics, before any NCAA rule said so. His many contributions, both monetary and otherwise, will forever be a part of Penn State tradition.
Twenty-three times he led his Nittany Lions to a top-ten finish, according to a New York Times article. His teams also won National Championships in 1982 and 1986.
After a heartbreaking loss to Alabama and coaching legend Bear Bryant in the final seconds of the 1979 Sugar Bowl, Paterno was quoted as saying "Maybe I'm too old. Maybe I should step aside for somebody younger who has more guts in the clutch," according to ESPN.
But he never lost his fire.
Paterno would go on to further his illustrious career and when asked by then university president Graham Spanier and athletic director Tim Curley to step down in 2004 after his Nittany Lions posted a dismal 4-7 record, Paterno responded with "No."
It can be argued that this man had a responsibility to do more.
But in the wake of Paterno's death, I think the university owed him more than a letter, a phone call informing him he was relieved of his coaching duties and weeks of bashing that undoubtedly weakened his will to live as he was ravaged by cancer and other various health complications.
He had simply been put through more heartache in a matter of months than some people experience over a lifetime and that's not easy for an 85-year-old man who to that point, had a remarkably unblemished legacy.
I think the legend of Paterno will shine through more than the Sandusky abuse scandal.
A school that evolved from a miniscule 9,500 student body to a now-thriving 45,000, according to the Times article, must give credit in large, to Paterno.
Saying goodbye is never easy, but legends never die and Paterno will continue to stalk the sidelines with his black-rimmed glasses, rolled khaki pants and black shoes, cursing and hollering in that Brooklyn accent.
Just on a different field.