Jay Paterno: Joe's son on life -- his, Penn State's and his dad's
Former Penn State assistant Jay Paterno, son of Joe Paterno, is still doggedly defending his dad.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Jay Paterno answers all the tough questions. You may already know that.
The vocal, 44-year old son of Joe Paterno is keeping alive his family’s stance regarding the Jerry Sandusky scandal. In a wide-ranging recent interview at his home, Penn State’s former quarterbacks coach takes on a variety of subjects regarding himself, his family, his dad, Penn State and the scandal that won’t go away. Details from that interview will appear in a profile that will run Tuesday at CBSSports.com.
“Let me correct a couple of things for you,” Jay once told a TV interviewer. “When Jerry [Sandusky] retired, he was not at our practices with kids or by himself. He wasn’t on team planes. He wasn’t on bowl trips. He wasn’t around our program.
“I would see him twice, three times a month. He would come in and work out by himself. But the perception is he was around us all the time with kids when he retired. Partly, that’s the perception that was created by the sanctions and the Freeh Report.
“He wasn’t part of our program, but that narrative still persists. Our practices, anybody who knows, knows Joe was paranoid. He didn’t want any media. My kids didn’t go to practice. There weren’t kids at practice. He’d go nuts.”
The younger Paterno expanded on that subject in an exclusive interview with CBSSports.com.
“The disappointing thing is there was no fight,” Jay added, referring to the Freeh Report that was adopted by Penn State and then used by the NCAA to penalize football and the university. “There are people that saw the Freeh Report, mind made up.”
On what he’s doing right now: “That’s the $64,000 question. I’m writing right now, putting some things together. What it turns into we’ll see.”
“A lot of people talk to me about what I want to do when I grow up. I still have some time to make that decision. People talk to me about politics. People talk to me about TV stuff.”
More highlights from the interview:
On his father: “Here’s a guy who lived his life -- no DUIs, didn’t cheat on his wife, no crime. He had a certain moral code about him. If he made mistakes in his life, he made mistakes because his intent was in the right place …
“This was not a guy who cared about himself over anybody else. To think he, in this one instance, would [ignore these crimes] … They were saying, ‘Joe Paterno was showing callous disregard for the welfare of children.’ You guys don’t know him. He would not do that. That’s just not the guy he was.
“I know people say, ‘Joe had to know about Jerry.’ I know people say he was all powerful, most powerful man in the state. Power is relative. Football coaches don’t have [unlimited] power. They don’t have a police force. They can’t investigate things.
“It’s not the Ox-bow Incident where you go out and round up a bunch of people and hang people. We had that kind of vigilante justice in the South. That’s why we have Civil Rights laws, thank God. If he [Joe] wanted to call up a state senator and get him on the phone, yeah, he had that power. But as far as passing a law, he didn’t have that power. Elected officials have that power.”
On the Freeh Report: “What Freeh is advocating is Joe come into a staff meeting and said, ‘Jerry Sandusky was investigated for potentially molesting a child. He wasn’t charged. If you guys can just keep an eye on him around the lockerroom …’ Do you know how legal that is? It’s completely illegal.
"One of things we’ve lost in this country [is perspective]. One time [former quarterback] Michael Robinson before practice said, ‘You know Jay I always thought Abraham Lincoln was this great man and I read some things and he was a racist.’
“I said Michael, ‘Wait a minute, you’re judging him in 2005. For his time, he was seen as radical. You like for him to have the same views on race relations that we have, but he was way ahead of his time.’ He said, ‘I didn’t think of it that way.’
“I made that point: It’s very easy to judge Joe Paterno’s actions in 2001 based on what we know in 2012, 2013. It’s not fair.”
How will this all be remembered in 20 years, 50 years? “You do wonder. There’s some people, you’re just not going to unring that bell. That’s just the reality. It’s tough to unring that bell. You can’t stop trying. I’ll go to my grave for what Penn State was about.”
What do you make of Phil Knight’s reversals? (The Nike CEO defended Paterno in a moving eulogy, then eventually stripped Paterno’s name off a day-care center on the Nike campus. When the Freeh Report was released, Knight said Paterno committed “missteps” that had “heartbreaking consequences.” After saying he read the entire Freeh Report, Knight said the report was “essentially theories and assertions.”) “Everybody forgets he’s the chairman of a public company. He was getting pressure before then, I would bet. When that was announced [removing Joe’s name], that didn’t bother me. How do you react? He’s CEO of a public company. He’s got a responsibility to shareholders. I’m not going to judge him on this.”
Is he still a family friend? “Without going into too much detail, he said, ‘I thought you would jump on me.’ When our report came out, he was elated. He made it pretty clear he thought our report was right. He read it and issued a statement.”
What is your relationship with Bill O’Brien, the man who has replaced your dad? “I met him the day after he was hired. One of the things that George W. Bush did was phenomenal for an ex-president. He didn’t weigh in on everything. Coaching’s hard enough. If they feel they want me to come do something [I will].”
“Everybody gets excited by a new guy, but you’ve got to temper it a little bit. Unfortunately, the expectations can overwhelm kids.
“The league was down. The league is going to be better. Urban Meyer changes the whole dynamic. Urban really loved my dad. He came to the memorial service. [Steve] Spurrier came.
“When they fired Joe, I think they [the university] were going to make it very tough for themselves to go out and get some of the head coaches they were going to get. There was a lot of, like, ‘You fired Joe? What chance do I have?'”
“There are people who really knew my dad and competed against him, they spoke of him. [Missouri’s] Gary Pinkel got it. Tom Izzo called me. Every time they’d have the Big 10 meetings, [Michigan State’s Mark] Dantonio, Izzo and my dad would get together. [Wisconsin hoops coach] Bo Ryan took the team up to the [Paterno] statue and left a hat there. Coach K has been very vocal.”
More on Joe: “When they put the suites up [at Beaver Stadium], he was dead set against it. No. 1, you’re putting a class structure in your stadium. No. 2, the vast majority of those people don’t watch one down of those games. They come to drink, they come to socialize.”
On removing the Joe Paterno statue: "Cato the Elder, I think, said, 'I would much rather have men ask why I have no statue than why I have one.’"
“My dad said that to me at one point: ‘What do you want to put a statue of me for? It’s not like I’m David. There’s not much to work with there.’“
On he and his mother being criticized last month for speaking at a child abuse awareness group: (Note: Sue and Jay Paterno were asked to speak by the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance.) “There was some national media who said, ‘Oh, look they’re trying to use national child awareness month to push Joe’s thing.’ The context of my entire speech was that I’m not here to push Joe’s case. I’m not here to talk about my family. I don’t think I said him by name the whole speech.
“This was a breakfast where many legislators were there. They invited us. The speech I gave had very little to do with anything that happened here … I knew there would be negative press when I did it. You can’t be afraid to take a stand to stand by your convictions.”
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