Paterno’s legacy wasn’t his statue or his 409 wins, but family and players, his widow said. Less than an hour after the letter was released, a copy was circulating on social media and websites, including one belonging to Seattle Seahawks fullback and former Nittany Lion Michael Robinson.
‘‘The great fathers, husbands and citizens you have become fulfill the dreams Joe had,’’ she wrote to the former players. ‘‘All that we want — and what I believe we owe the victims, Joe Paterno and everyone who cares about Penn State — is the full record of what happened.’’
Paterno died in January 2012 at age 85, about two months after being diagnosed with lung cancer. The way university leadership handled his ouster — over a late-night telephone call — and its handling of the Freeh report and NCAA sanctions remains a sensitive topic for factions of dissatisfied alumni, former players, staff and community members.
‘‘I think Sue hit it directly on the head with everything,’’ Robinson said in a phone interview. ‘‘Personally, I've been feeling this way for the past year. The Joe the media was portraying was so different from the Joe I know.’’
Trustee Anthony Lubrano, who joined the board last year after drawing support from disgruntled alumni, has been among more vocal critics who say that school leaders rushed to judgment on Paterno. Critics have also said Freeh’s report downplayed failures of Pennsylvania’s child-protective services.
‘‘I knew Joe Paterno as well as one human being can know another. Joe was exactly the moral, disciplined and demanding man you knew him to be,’’ Sue Paterno wrote. ‘‘Never — not once — did I see him compromise his principles or twist the truth to avoid bad publicity or protect his reputation.’’
The Paterno family has remained supportive of the football program and Paterno’s successor, Bill O'Brien. Sue Paterno has been active in organizing Special Olympics, which was again held on campus last summer; and son and former assistant coach Jay Paterno has done speaking engagements with students and attends sporting events.
On Monday, a recorded interview Sue Paterno did with Katie Couric for her ‘‘Katie’’ show will air nationwide. A preview was posted on the show’s website this week.
‘‘It is still hard to accept,’’ Sue Paterno told Couric when asked about hearing the Sandusky news. ‘‘But when I read the first charge, I actually got physically ill.
‘‘I've had so many sleepless nights.’’
In the preview, Sue Paterno elaborated.
‘‘These are children,’’ she said. ‘‘Our lives have been about children. We have five children. We have 17 grandchildren. Our lives are about children, making them better, not hurting them.’’
The family’s response comes a month after Gov. Tom Corbett filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA to overturn the sanctions. The NCAA this week asked a judge to throw out the suit.
Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP
Sue Paterno letter: http://realmikerob.com/pdf/sues-letter-2-8-13.pdf
Monday’s show preview: http://www.katiecouric.com/