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Penn State Under Fire For Planned Tribute To Joe Paterno

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Penn State University is being criticized for its decision to honor its former football coach, Joe Paterno, during a game on Saturday. The school's tribute is for the 50th anniversary of Paterno's first game as Penn State head coach.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The university fired Joe Paterno back in 2011. This was after a grand jury indicted Jerry Sandusky for sexually abusing children over decades. Sandusky had been a defensive coordinator for the football team.

MCEVERS: Paterno has been faulted for not adequately reporting Sandusky's crimes. And before Paterno died in 2012, he said he wished he had done more. But there's an ongoing fight over the former coach's legacy.

CORNISH: We asked Erin McCarthy about tomorrow's commemoration. She's a senior at Penn State and an intern at The Philadelphia Inquirer, covering Penn State football.

ERIN MCCARTHY: On Saturday, there's going to be a focus, it seems, on the players that he impacted. That was their pretty much exact phrasing in that statement from the athletic director, Sandy Barbour. And the co-captains of the 1966 team will participate in the coin toss and different types of video presentations and clips of that game throughout the game tomorrow.

MCEVERS: Charlie Thompson is a reporter for The Patriot-News in Harrisburg. He says the decision to hold the commemoration has a lot to do with pressure from people who went to Penn State and feel like Paterno was made into a scapegoat.

CHARLIE THOMPSON: There have been surveys that suggest that more than 90 percent of Penn State alumni believe that it is time and it is fitting for the university to honor Paterno and his contributions to Penn State.

CORNISH: Among current students, opinion is mixed. A Daily Collegian editorial condemned the planned commemoration and said Paterno is, quote, "no longer a community hero."

MCEVERS: But senior Erin McCarthy says, you can still find a lot of fans around state college, too.

MCCARTHY: You know, you walk around downtown, and a lot of stores have cut outs of Joe Paterno, Joe Paterno wall hangings and shirts. And it's a part of the culture here that, despite what happened in 2011, doesn't seem to have gone away.

CORNISH: The events of 2011 haven't gone away, either. Former University officials are still facing charges related to the Sandusky case.

MCEVERS: A victim advocate who worked with survivors of Sandusky's abuse talked to Yahoo News and called tomorrow's commemoration incredibly insensitive. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.