You can’t deny Joe Paterno’s impact on college football, on sports. Paterno, who died Sunday at age 85 after a brief battle with lung cancer, prided himself on success with honor and dignity — hallmarks our armed forces strive for daily.
Of course the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal overshadowed much of this. But that shouldn’t wipe out the totality of the pre-November 2011 slate: his service to our country (briefly in the Army around the end of World War II), the thousands of men who graduated and later made great impacts on the sports world and other segments of society, the affection and dedication he showed to Penn State.
Paterno wasn’t a saint; he’d come off as dismissive if your question didn’t meet his liking. “That’s a dumb question” or “that’s a stupid question” were words you’d hear in his news conferences if you listened or watched frequently enough. His role in the Sandusky case, much debated, fell short of what many expected from this larger-than-life figure.
His teams went 17-3 against the service academies, with Air Force (0-2), Army (1-9) and Navy (2-8) occasional foils for the Lions, mostly in the early years. Penn State and Navy will renew their series this fall in State College after a 38-year hiatus.
With the Sandusky trial looming, the Paterno story isn’t complete. Much remains to be written, but one thing stands out today: Joe Paterno made a mark on many, for better or for worse.