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Jay Paterno on defense of famed dad

July 26. 2013 12:02PM

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DALLAS — Jay Paterno didn’t come to Newberry Estates to talk about the lawsuit.

The son of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno did, however, make clear to members of the Penn State Club of Wyoming Valley on Thursday night what he thinks of the Freeh Report, which depicted his late father as a conspirator in efforts to cover up sex-abuse allegations against now-disgraced assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

“That report should be perforated and put on rolls, if you know what I mean,” Paterno, 44, told the audience.

The Paterno estate — together with several university trustees, former players and other supporters — filed suit in May against the NCAA, seeking reversal of NCAA sanctions against the school that followed the investigation by former FBI director Louis Freeh. The NCAA, in response, sought this month to have the case dismissed.

Paterno, himself a former assistant football coach at the university, said he could not discuss the ongoing legal battle. But in a 40-minute speech he melded reverence for his late father and the university with veiled references to the sanctions, which included a $60 million fine, a four-year ban on postseason play and vacating all victories from 1998 to 2011.

Paterno underscored the latter point, first rattling off a list of highlights of Joe Paterno’s victorious final years, drawing vigorous applause with reference to a victory over Big Ten rival Ohio State.

“But as you know now, so much of that never really happened,” Paterno said.

“I may not agree with the current administration and board,” said Paterno. “Ultimately, they will blow away like grains of sand, as all of humanity will, and Penn State will endure.”

Paterno, who spent 17 years as with the program, lastly as quarterbacks coach, announced his departure in January 2012 after Bill O’Brien’s appointment as successor to Joe Paterno.

Paterno, who has been writing columns and speaking since, told the audience that he misses coaching but understands that taking up the clipboard might not happen again in the near future — but he doesn’t rule out a return to coaching, either.

“Right now, it’s not easy for a coach to hire Jay Paterno,” he said, with any prospective employer likely to be barraged with media questions about “What did he know? When did he know it?”

“Even though I have answered those questions 800,000 times,” Paterno said wearily. “That narrative has set in.”

In a pre-speech interview with media, Paterno, known for his powerful speaking style and support of Democratic causes, laughed off a question about whether he was contemplating a run for political office. But the father of five also acknowledged that whatever choice he ultimately makes also will have to coincide with family responsibilities.

“God has a plan. I don’t know what it is. I hope he’s going to share it with me at some point,” Paterno quipped.

Paterno also told reporters that he does not know the whereabouts of a Joe Paterno statue that university officials removed from campus last year for storage in an unnamed “secure location.”

His appearance Thursday night was also intended to help the local club raise funds for the Struthers Career and Family Center being built at the Penn State Wilkes-Barre campus.

Club President Linda Bartlett was grateful to have landed Paterno as a guest. “I was really thrilled,” she said.

Many of those who mingled with Paterno at the event were similarly thrilled — and receptive to his message.

“He told me it will be made better,” Wyoming resident John Piszak said Paterno assured him of PSU’s reputation and the sanctions.

“Never give up,” the longtime fan added.

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