This past week, the Penn State University Athletic Department announced its plans to honor former head coach, Joe Paterno, for the 50th anniversary of his head coaching debut. The celebration will be held on September 17th, prior to the Nittany Lions matchup with in-state foe, Temple, who happen to be coached by a former player of Paterno, Matt Rhule. The news was handled many different ways on campus, throughout college football, and across the country. Despite the popular opinion from Penn Staters that Paterno should be honored, it is time to move on.
This is a critical time for Penn State football. This will be the most important season yet for head coach James Franklin, who is in his third season at the helm. With back to back 7 and 6 seasons, the head man’s seat could be getting hotter. This, the first season where Penn State is back on the same playing field as everyone else; a full depth chart, maximum number of scholarship players, and Franklin finally getting to run his style of offense with former quarterback Christian Hackenberg in the NFL. This season is the first look at what Penn State football will look like for as long as Franklin is here and the fans, the school, and the students need to get behind that.
Penn State Athletics decided to honor Paterno as a marketing tool to sell tickets to an emptying Beaver Stadium. The home opener at had 94,378 fans show up in a stadium that holds nearly 107,000. Knowing that a loss to Pitt in week two could turn the diehard fans against Franklin, honoring former Coach Paterno the following week will be sure to fill the seats.
Do I think that Paterno should be honored? Absolutely. He has not been found guilty on any charges and in my America, you are innocent until proven guilty. The defamation of Paterno through a dishonest media has nearly tarnished an entire university. One man’s actions created a firestorm around a football program. People are always saying how there are things more important than football, that football programs are too big and too powerful. Well, when the media turns a whole tragedy about innocent children into a story about a football program, it is not football that is the problem.
Penn State students have moved on. We have turned our attention to righting the wrongs and trying to help children. The support has turned to our current athletes who take the field in the fall to represent our school with the honor it deserves. This new generation of Penn State is not involved with any scandals or illegal activity. This new generation of Penn State continues to carry on the teachings of Coach Paterno without mentioning him. We know that moving on and focusing on the here, the now, and the future will only result in a bigger and better Penn State.
Before every home football game, the pump up video is played. The crowd gets a few flashes of the black nikes, white socks, rolled up khakis, and even a glimpse of Paterno’s face. To me, the perfect recognition for Coach Paterno. While the rest of the country has blamed him, it is us who know exactly what this man has turned our future degrees into. We have moved on, we remember, we will not forget, and we build for the future because WE ARE.