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Walfish: Judging JoePa’s legacy

Josh Walfish

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Joe Paterno passed away Sunday after a brief battle with lung cancer at the age of 85.

The legendary college football coach holds the record for the most wins in Division I history. He had been at Penn State since 1950 and had been the head honcho since 1966. He was by far the most respected coach in all of sports.

But none of that matters. What matters is the last three months. What matters is that he let down an entire group of young boys. What matters is that he had information on Jerry Sandusky’s heinous acts and went only to the vice president of the university and the athletic director.

If you’re saying this is an unfair representation of JoePa’s legacy, I salute you because you are absolutely correct. Granted, the sex abuse scandal will stick with his legacy the same way Michael Vick’s convictions of dog fighting will stick with the quarterback. But Vick had time to repair his image; Paterno did not have such time.

To judge a man’s legacy on the worst three-month span of his life is pointless. If everyone were judged on the worst moments of his life, then there would be no good people in the world. Joe Paterno is definitely a good person.

What gets lost in the fold is the charity work the Paterno family did for the Penn State community. The family donated over $4 million to the school for various projects that included the school’s library, which is named for him. He helped to build an endowment for the school that now is more than $2 billion.

He was successful in making the Nittany Lions true student-athletes. Penn State was second in the Big Ten (behind Northwestern, of course) in graduation rate at 89 percent. During the Paterno tenure, the Nittany Lions had 47 Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-Americans, including 37 first-team honorees.

Paterno’s generosity touched more people than just those in University Park. Before Penn State played NU on Oct. 22, Paterno took time to visit with Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald’s DC sons. This touching gesture shows you who Joe Paterno really was. The fact that his former players have rallied around their coach in the last three months shows you how much of an impact he has made on this world.

It is up to you how you remember Paterno’s legacy. Whether it is his accomplishments on the field or his mistake off the field, Paterno’s name will not soon be forgotten.

I end with how I will remember Paterno. I will remember him for what he did on the field, not off it. Fitzgerald may have summed up my feelings best in his statement released by the athletic department.

“For 62 years, Coach Paterno poured his heart and soul into a football program and university, helping countless young men reach their dreams and goals on the football field. It’s hard to fathom the impact that Coach Paterno has had on college football and at Penn State. His insight and wisdom will be missed.”

Assistant sports editor Josh Walfish is a Medill sophomore. He can be reached at


About the Writer
Josh Walfish, Sports Editor

Josh Walfish was Sports editor of The Daily. His past positions include Gameday editor. He is from Rockville, Md., and has interned for RantSports.