STATE COLLEGE —
Penn State’s season opener Saturday will be the first since 1949 not featuring someone with the name Paterno on the coaching staff.
The Paternos are out of the picture, like the campus statue of the family patriarch; erased like his coaching records.
But the family will be in Beaver Stadium watching from a skybox — a sign that through the turmoil of the past several months, life goes on for the clan that was synonymous with Penn State for decades.
Scandal tarnished the legacy of the late Joe Paterno, the Hall of Famer who coached the Nittany Lions until his firing in November, days after former assistant Jerry Sandusky was arrested on child sex abuse charges. Son and former longtime assistant coach Jay Paterno no longer tutors the quarterbacks.
Jay Paterno, one of Joe and Sue Paterno’s five children, has been traveling and writing columns instead of getting ready for the season opener.
“It’s such a change in lifestyle. Jay has kept himself busy. He’s smart enough, savvy enough,” said Tim Sweeney, a businessman and former player who is head of the Football Letterman’s Club.
“Still, their hearts will be at Beaver Stadium on Saturday,” said Sweeney, referring to Jay Paterno and the other veteran assistants who left after the arrival of Bill O’Brien, Paterno’s replacement as head coach.
The family as part of Paterno’s employment agreement received use of a Beaver Stadium suite for 25 years. Family members intend to attend the season opener against Ohio University on Saturday to show support for the new regime, family spokesman Dan McGinn said.
“The family doesn’t want to do anything to distract from the game this weekend,” he said.
Affixed to the front screen door of the Paternos’ modest ranch home is a copy of an often-seen blue and white sign in windows of downtown businesses, that reads: “Proud to Support Penn State Football.”
Members of the Paterno family either did not return calls or would not comment for this article.
Sue Paterno continues to volunteer with Special Olympics, a charity she has long championed. A new Catholic student center across the street from campus bearing her name appears near completion.
Lawyer and former Penn State defensive back Adam Taliaferro, now a university trustee, grew close to the Paternos after suffering a serious spinal cord injury in a game against Ohio State in 2000.
He said he spoke to Sue inside the football building while fans rallied outside and told the AP she was “one of the strongest women I know. She will always remain a huge part of the university,” Taliaferro said.
Paterno started with Penn State as an assistant coach in 1950, becoming head coach in 1966.
Former FBI Director Louis Freeh’s university-commissioned report in July said Paterno and three other school officials concealed allegations against Sandusky. Ten days later, the school took down the bronzed statue of Paterno outside Beaver Stadium.
Then, the NCAA announced it had accepted the findings and levied unprecedented penalties on the program including a four-year bowl ban, significant scholarship cuts and a $60 million fine. The NCAA vacated every Penn State win from 1998-2011, and Paterno was stripped of 111 career victories — meaning he no longer holds the record for most coaching wins in major college football.
Paterno, who was diagnosed with lung cancer days after his firing, was not interviewed by Freeh’s team. He died in January.