By Harry Allison
Almost four years after he was summarily fired — over the telephone by Penn State’s trustees — the pendulum of public opinion and justice keeps swinging back in the late, great Joe Paterno’s direction.
Paterno will finally become a hall of famer in the state where his status as a coaching legend was marred by Penn State’s child sex abuse scandal.
The late football coach was elected to the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame along with 11 others, including former players Chuck Fusina and Matt Bahr.
Paterno was actually approached for consideration about two decades ago but shied from the attention and wasn’t sure he could make the ceremony, which usually falls on a football Saturday, organizers said.
Penn State fired Paterno in November 2011 amid fallout from the scandal. He died two months later after a short battle with lung cancer.
A school-sanctioned report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh concluded Paterno covered up reports of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky’s abuse. His family has challenged those findings.
The Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame’s rules require permission from a nominee or a nominee’s survivors before placing him or her on the ballot. Each year it inducts 10 living and 2 deceased athletes and coaches.
Organizers approached Paterno’s family this year and they agreed. The former coach received the most votes in the deceased category, topping former Pitt Coach Foge Fazio with 1,823 votes.
The Hall of Fame’s 7,000 voting members also selected former Flyers goalie Bernie Parent, a hockey hall of famer; basketball coach P.J. Carlesimo; swimmer Kristy Kowal; football players Neal Olkewicz, Bill Koman and Eric Crabtree; golfer Chip Lutz and wrestler Gray Simons.
Inductees must have been born in Pennsylvania or lived in or played and coached in the state for a majority of their careers.
Paterno, a two-time national champion and five-time coach of the year, is already a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. After the NCAA restored 111 wins taken away as punishment for the scandal, he’s again the game’s winningest coach.
Paterno’s son, Jay, is expected to accept on his behalf at the Oct. 24 induction ceremony at the Valley Forge Casino Resort in King of Prussia.