Penn State to Pay Tribute to Paterno at Public Memorial
University Park, Pennsylvania — Thousands will attend a public memorial for Joe Paterno on Thursday, a day after mourners lined the streets to watch the hearse carrying the legendary Penn State coach drive through campus to his final resting place.
Throngs of students, fans and alumni tossed flowers and wept Wednesday as his funeral procession rolled past Beaver Stadium, where he paced the sidelines for decades.
“We love you, Joe! You are Penn State,” crowds along the procession chanted, some dressed in Penn State colors.
Others quietly waved.
Paterno, 85, was buried Wednesday at a private funeral in downtown State College.
The funeral and burial service came after days of emotional tributes as the campus and community come to terms with Paterno's death from lung cancer Sunday.
Mourners attended a public viewing Tuesday, some dabbing their eyes and others making the sign of the cross as they walked past the closed casket covered with roses.
The public memorial service Thursday will be held at Bryce Jordan Center on the Penn State campus, which has a 16,000-seat capacity.
All tickets have been distributed, the university said.
The legendary coach's career with the Nittany Lions abruptly ended last fall amid criticism of his response to alleged child sexual abuse by a former assistant.
Administrators have heard about a petition drive seeking to add Paterno's name to the football stadium, but it is too soon to discuss such initiatives, a university spokeswoman said.
“There are discussions that will be ongoing, but at this particular juncture, we are focused on the services on campus,” she said Tuesday. “There will be future discussions about a variety of ideas.”
President Barack Obama phoned the family to offer his condolences, according to Paterno's son, Jay Paterno.
The son did not directly address criticisms of how his father handled a 2002 report that an assistant coach had allegedly caught former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky molesting a young boy in a shower at the football complex on campus.
Joe Paterno passed the report on to two university executives, whom authorities later accused of misleading investigators and failing to properly report the abuse. In his final interview with The Washington Post, Paterno said he felt inadequate to deal with the situation.
In Paterno's 46-season tenure as head coach, the Nittany Lions won two national championships, went undefeated five times and finished in the top 25 national rankings 35 times, according to his official Penn State biography. Paterno worked 61 years at the school.
He became the winningest coach in major college football history on October 29, just days before the Sandusky case became public. The school fired him November 9.