PHILADELPHIA (AP)–A son of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and staunch defender of his father’s legacy has been elected to the university’s board of trustees.
Jay Paterno received the most votes in the alumni elections for trustee.
“Being elected to Penn State’s board of trustees is and should always be a call to service,” he said in a statement Friday, adding he hopes to “build on the enduring pride and values that have never wavered” at the school.
There are 38 trustees, and alumni vote for nine seats; three are on the ballot each year. He’ll start his new role in July.
Joe Paterno, one of the winningest coaches in college football history, was fired in 2011, just days after the arrest of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Paterno died of lung cancer early the next year at 85.
University trustees later said one of the reasons they removed Paterno was his handling of the 2001 complaint by another assistant coach who saw Sandusky apparently molesting a boy in a team shower.
Paterno passed the information along to the president at the time, Graham Spanier, and two other high-level administrators, but no one ever reported the incident to police or child welfare authorities. All three former administrators were convicted this year of child endangerment for their handling of the shower complaint.
Joe Paterno was never charged with a crime, but a school-commissioned review of the Sandusky scandal concluded he and the other administrators hushed up the shower incident out of concern for bad publicity.
Sandusky would go on to continue abusing boys until his 2011 arrest. He’s now serving a sentence of 30 to 60 years for sexually abusing 10 boys. He’s appealing the conviction and maintains his innocence.
Jay Paterno has been a fierce defender of his father.
In a book he had published in 2014, he said he was not writing to exonerate his father “because he did not commit a crime that needs a pardon.”
“If anything, he is guilty of failing to possess the God-like qualities ascribed to him by others, qualities that Joe was the first to insist he never had,” he wrote.
He called his father’s firing by the trustees “an act of cowardice.”
Jay Paterno was on the university’s coaching staff for 17 seasons, mostly as quarterbacks coach.
A bronze statue of Joe Paterno was removed from outside Beaver Stadium in 2012 in the Sandusky aftermath.
There has been a push by some students and alumni to restore the statute. Last summer, more than 200 former Penn State football players petitioned university leaders to return it. However, Jay Paterno said Friday he’s not focused on the statue.
“That is something for somebody else to worry about, not me,” he said. “I’m focusing on Penn State’s future.”
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