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CHICAGO (CBS) – A member of Penn State’s local alumni association said Sunday that the sex abuse scandal which cost Joe Paterno his job as coach shouldn’t obliterate his otherwise exceptional career.
The 85-year-old Paterno, who died Sunday morning, was a legendary coach for decades; known for his push for excellence on and off the field.
But as CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports, the child sex abuse scandal involving former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky and questions about how Paterno handled the allegations also raised concerns about Paterno’s integrity.
“I don’t know that he knew how to handle this, other than to take it to somebody else,” said Mark Israel, Recording Secretary for the Chicago Chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association. “Could he have done more, should he have done more? Yeah, probably in hindsight, we would have all liked that he had done more.”
Israel acknowledged it can’t be disputed that Paterno didn’t do enough when he was given information that Sandusky allegedly abused a boy in a campus shower. But Israel said that doesn’t mean Paterno should be reviled, either.
“I think, ultimately, he’ll be remembered for the greatness; for his grand vision, so to speak,” Israel said.
Paterno called his approach to coaching Penn State football “success with honor,” but ever since Sandusky was arrested sexually assaulting several children last fall, Paterno’s honor has come into question.
He’s been criticized for not going to police when an assistant told him about witnessing Sandusky assaulting a boy in a shower on campus. Just a few weeks ago, Paterno told reporters he thought he did what was best by reporting the incident to Penn State superiors.
“Was he from a different era? He was a different era than me, even, in that he was a full generation beyond,” Israel said. “I really don’t … I don’t know that he knew how to handle this.”
On Penn State’s campus on Sunday, dozens of students, alumni and residents stopped by Paterno’s statue to lay flowers and remember the coach. Many in “Happy Valley” seemed to overlook the scandal that hung over Paterno the last few months of his life.
“It’s kind of tragic that they weren’t able to, you know, do something nice for him before he passed,” said Penn State alum Steve Lampert.
Paterno was diagnosed with lung cancer a few days after he was fired relieved of his duties as Penn State football coach. His family said he fought hard until the end, stayed positive and only thought of others.
According to his family, Paterno had been hospitalized since Jan. 13 for complications related to his cancer treatment.
Sandusky has been charged with sexually assaulting at least 10 boys over the past 15 years.