Penn State to Honor Coach Joe Paterno Five Years After His Firing

Image: Joe Paterno
Penn State coach Joe Paterno stands on the field before his team's NCAA college football game against Northwestern, in Evanston, Ill. on Oct. 22, 2011.Jim Prisching / AP, file

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By Tom Winter and Tracy Connor

Penn State University plans to honor the late Joe Paterno at a game this month — five years after the school fired him as head football coach amid the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal.

At a Sept. 17 matchup against Temple University, Penn State will "commemorate Joe Paterno's first game as the head football coach at Penn State," the athletic department said on its website.

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Jennifer Storm, the victim advocate for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, criticized the move.

“I believe it is incredibly insensitive and unfortunately evident that they have still learned nothing about changing the culture on their campus," she said in a statement.

"All this will do is create more of a divide within an already divided community and tell survivors on campus that they celebrate those associated with one of the worst child rapists of our time.”

Penn State, which took down a bronze statue of Paterno outside Beaver Stadium in 2012, declined to provide details of the commemoration or discuss the decision to mark the anniversary.

Penn State University head football coach Joe Paterno watches his team during practice on November 9, 2011 in State College, Pennsylvania.Getty Images

Paterno, who notched the most victories in Division I college football history, lost his job in 2011 amid questions about what he knew about assistant coach Sandusky's behavior and for how long and whether he took any action.

A university-sanctioned report later concluded the legendary coach was aware of allegations against his assistant coach as early as 1998. Court papers unsealed this summer revealed that a man who says he was molested by Sandusky in the 1970s claimed he told Paterno and got the brush-off.

"I have a football season to worry about," Paterno allegedly said.

Paterno's family denied that and has long insisted he did nothing wrong. Paterno, who died of lung cancer in 2012, was never charged with a crime but once said in a statement: "With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."

Sandusky is serving a 30-to-60-year sentence for molesting 10 boys.