Tributes to Joe Paterno
University Park, Pennsylvania (CNN) — Thousands packed Penn State’s basketball arena today to honour Joe Paterno, the university’s longtime football coach who died this week after a battle with lung cancer.
The legendary coach’s career with the Nittany Lions abruptly ended last fall amid criticism of his response to alleged child sexual abuse by a former assistant. A defense of Paterno’s handling of that incident, made by Nike Chairman Phil Knight, elicited a loud, long standing ovation at the memorial service.
“If there is a villain in that tragedy, it lies in that investigation, not in Joe Paterno’s response to it,” Knight said, calling Paterno his “hero.” The late coach didn’t complain or lash out and remained loyal to Penn State after he was fired in the wake of the scandal last fall, he said.
Other speakers focused on Paterno’s humility, loyalty and kindness during his decades at the Pennsylvania university. Former players and students alike offered anecdotes and insights from Paterno, lavishing a man with praise who they said was quick to brush off compliments during his life.