By Ben Sullivan
The pendulum has swung up at Penn State, and legendary coach Joe Paterno, who was fired by phone after the Jerry Sandusky scandal, is officially back in good graces.
According to a poll taken by Quinnipiac University, 59 percent of Pennsylvania residents want a statue of Paterno restored to a prominent place on the school’s campus. The Associated Press reports that just 29 percent of the state’s residents would oppose such a move.
The poll also revealed that most Pennsylvania residents support the school’s recent deal with the NCAA that would restore the 112 wins that were vacated in the wake of the Sandusky scandal, again making Paterno the winningest coach in major college football history.
The 7-foot-tall statue of Paterno was taken down in 2012, shortly after Sandusky was convicted of molesting 10 boys — some of them in the Penn State football locker room — and shortly before the NCAA handed down its punishment for the school’s handling of the Sandusky matter. Penn State was stripped of the wins and a number of scholarships and was banned from bowl games. The school also was fined $60 million.
Paterno was fired in late 2011 as the Sandusky scandal was unfolding and died in January 2012 at age 85. Before his death, he faced criticism for not doing more after being alerted to Sandusky’s actions. But a number of die-hard Penn State supporters have worked to restore his reputation — and the statue — since his death.
In January, the NCAA announced that it would restore the vacated wins and direct the $60 million in fines to sexual-assault victims in the state of Pennsylvania only. Last year, the NCAA announced that the football team would receive its full complement of scholarships starting in 2015 and also allowed the Nittany Lions to participate in postseason play. Both actions helped stave off a lawsuit filed by two Pennsylvania state officials that challenged the legality of the NCAA sanctions levied against Penn State in the wake of the Sandusky scandal.