Penn State dropped its season opener to perennial underdog Ohio, 24-14. It was a bittersweet return to the football field for a university that was mired in an explosive child sex abuse scandal last year, which saw the legacy of former coach Joe Paterno irrevocably damaged.
Apparently, some Penn State fans still haven’t come to grips with Paterno’s role in covering up the sex abuse crimes of Jerry Sandusky:
A life-size cardboard cutout of Paterno was placed in the grass Friday afternoon, with a flower and an accompanying sign: “Joe Pa made Penn State a better place.” The cutout eventually was removed, replaced Saturday with a Paterno bobblehead and flowers, signs and pictures of the late ex-coach, and even another cutout. Several fans snapped pictures next to the display.
“This is a sad commentary on what’s happened to this university,” Penn State trustee Anthony Lubrano, whose pro-Paterno platform helped him get elected to the board, said while standing near the makeshift shrine. “The statue, which, by the way, Joe didn’t particularly like, symbolized so much for so many. That’s why they’re all here today. You can take away the statue, but you can’t take away the memories.”
Others, such as Stephen A. Smith of ESPN, aren’t so quick to whitewash Paterno’s legacy or celebrate the Penn State football program’s return to the field: