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New biography offers an inside look at Joe Paterno and family after his firing

Excerpts from 'Paterno,' by Joe Posnanski, show Paterno and his family reacting to the scandal after former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was accused of sexually abusing young boys.

By Staff Writer / August 16, 2012

Penn State president Graham Spanier (l.) reportedly encouraged Joe Paterno (r.) to step down as head football coach in 2004.

Gene J. Puskar/AP


The new biography “Paterno,” centering on the life of disgraced Penn State coach Joe Paterno, details the former coach’s reaction to being fired and how his family tried to handle the scandal, according to an excerpt which will be published in the September issue of GQ.

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“Paterno” author Joe Posnanski had joined Paterno in the summer of 2011, planning to observe the coach – with Paterno’s permission – through the upcoming football season for the biography. As a result, he was on the scene when the Sandusky scandal broke. The book will be released next week.

One part of the excerpt describes Paterno the day after he was fired from his position as head coach of the Nittany Lions. According to the biography, he “sobbed uncontrollably.”

“My name,” he said to his son, Jay, according to Posnanski. “I have spent my whole life trying to make that name mean something. And now it's gone.”

The Paternos took on a public relations specialist, Dan McGinn, to help them with the fallout of the scandal, and, according to Posnanski, McGinn asked Guido D’Elia, the director of communications and branding for football for the school at the time, if they could contact anyone on the board of trustees for the school. But D’Elia said that the board had been less than friendly towards Paterno since 2004. Spanier and the school's athletic director, Tim Curley, had reportedly suggested Paterno step down that year, and Paterno refused.

“We don’t have anybody on the board now,” D’Elia told McGinn, according to Posnanski.

According to Posnanski, Paterno’s son Scott, who had worked as a lawyer and unsuccessfully run as a candidate for a seat in the US Congress, was the first to realize the extent to which the scandal would damage his father’s career.

“Dad, you have to face the possibility that you will never coach another game,” Scott Paterno told his father, according to Posnanski.

Paterno died of complications from lung cancer in January. Last month, the NCAA fined Penn State $60 million, removed every win the football team had from 1998 to last year, forbade the school's football team from playing in postseason games for the next four years, and reduced the school's scholarships.

Posnanski told USA Today that when he planned his book, people asked him if Paterno was too beloved to make for an interesting read.

"The only question anyone seemed to ask about it was: 'What's left to say about Joe Paterno?'," he wrote. "Obviously, nobody asked me that question after Nov. 5."

In addition, former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky is said to be writing a second book while in jail at the Centre County Correctional Facility in Bellefonte, Pa.

Joe Amendola, Sandusky’s lawyer, said his client would most likely speak during his sentencing in September, and his planned book may be connected to that.

“Jerry views his sentencing as an opportunity for him to tell his side of this,” Amendola told the Washington Post.

A new investigation was recently started by the US Postal Inspection Service to look into allegations that Sandusky shared child pornography. Also, acording to Radar Online, federal authorities have heard from someone who claims to have witnessed Sandusky and a booster for the school abusing boys while on a private plane.


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