Current Penn State head football coach Bill O’Brien has released a statement on the death of his legendary predecessor, Joe Paterno.
It is with great sadness that I am compelled to deliver this message of condolence and tribute to a great man, husband, father and someone who is more than just a coach, Joe Paterno. First, on behalf of Penn State Football, we offer our sincerest condolences to the Paterno family for their loss. We also offer our condolences to the Penn State community and, in particular, to those who wore the Penn State colors, our Nittany Lion football players and alumni. Today they lost a great man, coach, mentor and, in many cases, a father figure, and we extend our deepest sympathies. The Penn State Football program is one of college football’s iconic programs because it was led by an icon in the coaching profession in Joe Paterno. There are no words to express my respect for him as a man and as a coach. To be following in his footsteps at Penn State is an honor. Our families, our football program, our university and all of college football have suffered a great loss, and we will be eternally grateful for Coach Paterno’s immeasurable contributions.
This is a very awkward situation for O’Brien, who replaced Paterno only after Paterno’s firing due to his actions, or lack thereof, after learning that former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky allegedly used the PSU football program to sexually abuse children. Paterno’s death comes two months after he lost his job, and to many fans, it will look like his job was what sustained him, and he was a martyr. That’s not O’Brien’s fault, obviously, but it will probably be many years before Penn State fans and college football fans in general think of him primarily as anything other than Paterno’s replacement.