Joe Paterno's complicated legacy
January 27, 2012
Following two days of public viewings attended by students, alumni, sports icons, government officials, dignitaries and fans, former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno was buried on Wednesday. His death on January 22 came just two months after the University's trustees dismissed him as head coach amid criticism that he failed to respond to a report of child sexual abuse committed by former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. In his 46 years at Penn State, Paterno recorded a Division 1 record-breaking 409 wins, coached five undefeated teams and won two national championships. Just as important, he was long held as a model in coaching for the importance he placed on the ethics and moral conduct of his players and for his philosophy on college athletics, which stressed the importance of academic achievement. But all of these accolades became overshadowed in the past few months as his own character was called into question surrounding the alleged sexual abuse scandal that rocked the campus and the world of college sports. So how should Joe Paterno be remembered and what will his legacy be? And what does all of this say about the status of sports figures in our culture? Washington Post reporter SALLY JENKINS, whose exclusive interview with Paterno was published a week before his death, joins us along with DAVE ZIRIN, who writes about sports and politics for The Nation. His commentary on Joe Paterno's legacy ran this week in the Philadelphia Inquirer.