Gorman: Honoring Joe, the Paterno Way

Article excerpt

Now that Penn State reversed the order of death before dishonor regarding Joe Paterno, there is a groundswell of support among alums and fans for the university to further honor the legendary football coach posthumously.

Tens of thousands expressed their admiration for Paterno this week by paying their respects at his public viewing, lining the streets of Curtin Road on campus and College Avenue downtown for his funeral procession and crowding Bryce Jordan Center for a memorial service celebrating his life.

What they want next is something more.

This puts Penn State in a predicament. It fired Paterno only 11 days after he became the winningest coach in major college football history, amid a child sexual abuse scandal involving his former top lieutenant, Jerry Sandusky. Then, 73 days later, Paterno succumbed to lung cancer.

Now, Penn Staters want Paterno's name to adorn more than the library.

"I don't know about the timing," said Todd Blackledge, quarterback of the Nittany Lions' 1982 national champions, "but, certainly, if you name the library after him, it would make sense to name the football field after him."

Former Penn State wide receiver Jimmy Cefalo suggests that Penn State's board of trustees -- the same people who fired Paterno by phone -- name him the school's head football coach emeritus in perpetuity.

The outpouring of support for Paterno from his current and former players is tinged with emotion over the loss of a man they considered a mentor, if not a father figure. If left up to the Nittany Lions who believe he built Penn State into what it is, they would plaster Paterno's name all over campus.

"They could name this campus Joe Paterno University," said Ki- Jana Carter, the All-American running back on Penn State's last undefeated team, in 1994.

Yet, Tom Bradley believes that Paterno would be "uncomfortable" with such talk. The former defensive coordinator, who served as interim head coach when Paterno was fired, said "Coach never wanted all the attention."

That hasn't stopped suggestions that Beaver Stadium or Curtin Road, if not both, be renamed in Paterno's honor. What's dangerous is the concept of changing names without considering their historical significance, which would undermine the honor for those originally recognized.

James J. Beaver commanded a Pennsylvania regiment of volunteers in the Civil War, where he lost a leg at the Battle of Reams Station, was instrumental in getting funds approved for the football stadium and served as governor of the commonwealth and, later, Penn State's acting president. …