American Dispatch: JoePa’s Legacy

By: FOX News Radio’s Jeff Monosso in State College, PA

On November 9th 2011, Penn State’s University Board of Trustees announced:

“Joe Paterno is no longer the head football coach, effective immediately.”

It was hard to imagine any other words that could be more shocking here in State College until last Sunday when Joe Paterno’s family released a statement saying:

“It is with great sadness that we announce that Joe Paterno passed away.” 

The man who dedicated 61 years of his life to Penn State and who became the face of the University was dead, less than three months after being fired.

The Board of Trustees said they fired Joe Paterno because of his moral failure to do more in alerting police when he was allegedly notified of child sex abuse allegations involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky back in 2002.  There are too many conflicting accounts as to what Paterno was told to really know if he did the right thing.  Legally he did.  Maybe details will flesh out during Jerry Sandusky’s trial.

He died of lung cancer, but students, alumni, and fans will tell you that the coach lovingly nicknamed “JoePa” died of a broken heart.  Paterno’s son Scott told us after his father’s death that his dad was at peace and still very much loved Penn State.  He says that JoePa would tell everyone today, “Let’s build things up,” and that his father didn’t die broken hearted.

There is also a different vibe on campus.  What strikes me is how the University is embracing Joe Paterno as the legend he was.

It is a stark contrast from how they treated him back in November.  He wasn’t allowed to finish his long storied career with the dignity that most here say he deserved.

Fans continue to gather to say goodbye, laying flowers, lighting candles, and saying prayers at the feet of Coach Paterno’s statue outside Beaver Stadium.

One student summed up the consensus here in State College by saying, “The Sandusky scandal will be dealt with, but right now, it’s about Joe.”

Listen HERE to some of Jeff Monosso’s reporting from State College, PA: