By Tim Gilbert, Kevin Horne & Jessica Tully
Jay Paterno’s memoir “Paterno Legacy: Enduring Lessons from the Life and Death of My Father” isn’t due out until Sept. 1, but the Benner Pike Barnes & Noble had stacks of the book for sale in its Local Interest section at closing time on Tuesday.
Bill Ames, publicity manager of Triumph Books, says the release date was not hard and fast. The publishing company knew the books were shipping in mid-July.
“It’s just this one store in State College that got it out on the shelves early,” Ames says.
There were 40 copies of the highly anticipated 358-page book, which is self-described as the “revealing, poignant, and definitive biography of legendary coach Joe Paterno written by the man who knew him better than anyone” available for purchase at $26.95.
If you couldn’t get a copy, we’ve pulled many of its interesting excerpts. Among them: his thoughts on the trustees who personally knew his father and still fired him, anecdotes on the Freeh investigators, his father’s final moments, and his personal experience with sexually inappropriate activity.
(These excerpts from Paterno Legacy: Enduring Lessons from the Life and Death of My Father by Jay Paterno is printed with the permission of Triumph Books. For more information, please visit www.triumphbooks.com/
Jay Paterno wastes no time getting into what he calls “The Elephant in the Room,” the name of the first chapter. Unlike Joe Posnanski’s Paterno book, Jay tackles the scandal head-on. It’s a point-by-point defense of the accusations made against Joe in the Freeh Report, a summary of many criticisms of Freeh already made.
The morning after my father had been fired, I was seated at his desk, and he sat in his robe in another chair looking over at me. The pain, the sleepless nights of the previous days were visible in his face. But he had something he wanted me to know. “Jay, I never told you guys about Jerry because I didn’t know if it was true,” he said. “I certainly couldn’t walk into the office and accuse a guy of something that I didn’t witness or know to be true. I didn’t know that he’d done all of that stuff. I had no idea. I just didn’t know.”
Joe Paterno made the statement: “In hindsight I wish I had done more.” But there is a more important statement he wrote on a pad just before he left the house to go to the hospital. It was the last thing he wrote in his own home: “Maybe the silver lining in this is that some good can come out of this.”
Jay calls out several of the trustees by name who participated in the announced unanimous vote to fire his father. Many of them had been lifelong friends of the Paternos, and it was impossible to separate the personal from the professional. Ed Hintz, Jesse Arnelle, Paul Suhey, Steve Garban, John Surma — Jay has something to say about all of them, none more direct than Anne Riley:
My first thoughts fell on a trustee named Anne Riley. One of my most vivid childhood memories came at just over seven years old. I was in our basement and heard something going on up in the kitchen. I went upstairs and caught sight of my father pulling Anne’s father, Ridge Riley, across the floor to perform CPR on him. “Get downstairs,” my father yelled.
I did what I was told and after a lot of commotion, Ridge Riley was taken to the hospital, but he had already died in our kitchen. He was visiting my father to continue work on the book The Road to Number One, a chronicle of Penn State football history.
How would he have written about this chapter?
In her father’s moment of greatest need, my mother and father tried to save his life. In my father’s hour of greatest need, where was she?
Jay recalls the day the Grand Jury presentment was leaked. It wasn’t until he fielded a call from communications manager Guido D’Elia, who had spoken to the New York Times’ Pete Thamel, that he realized the gravity of the situation:
“Jay, this is not good,” [D’Elia] said.
“Yeah, his attitude with me was this: I can’t believe you’re actually trying to spin this.”
“Guido, Joe didn’t know.”
“They don’t care.”
“So what?” I said. “The truth is that the first time Joe was ever made aware of anything he went to his superiors, and that was all he could do.”
“They don’t care.”
The exchange was telling. The media didn’t care about what actually happened. The forces of Salem had been unleashed and wouldn’t rest until someone had ascended from the gallows to hang.
Perhaps the most gripping chapter, called “The Firing, The Tempest, and Et Tu Brute,” comes midway through the book. Paterno recounts those hectic days leading up to his father’s termination, including his attempts to reach out to trustees Ed Hintz and Dave Joyner, urging them to talk to Joe to get his side before any decisions were made.
Of course, that would never happen.
Paterno first found out about his father’s fate in a phone call from his sister Mary Kay, who was at the house when John Surma sent his messenger.
Too shocked to cry, all I could manage was to say the one word my father never wanted to hear any of us say, a word I had never heard him utter even at his angriest: “Fuck.”
At that moment the trustees chose to condemn an innocent man. But in their actions, they also offered up the name of Penn State, an honorable name earned over decades. In a moment of fear and panic, they destroyed it. For the damage done to the Penn State name, all the money, all the investigations, and all the public relations firms they hire cannot repair what they’ve done.
Later, Jay writes about his first interview with the Freeh commission. He was asked not to bring counsel while he sat down with former Federal Judge Eugene Sullivan and a former Delaware state trooper. Jay asked if he could tape the interview; they said no.
At the end of the interview, the most interesting part of the conversation occurred. I asked for copies of their notes of the interview. They denied my request insisting all of the interviews were privileged information and were the property of their client. “Who is your client,” I asked — expecting the answer to be Penn State. “The Board of Trustees” was their answer.
A week later, Joe asked about Jay’s interview with the Freeh commission because he had one scheduled. Jay told his father he believed the NCAA will use the report to sanction the school. Jay wrote that Joe was totally shocked by the news.
“Why would they do that,” he asked.
“To burn this to the ground and take credit for everything that happens next. They want to destroy all the good things done here and blame you for it. Then they can claim they made Penn State football.”
“Whatever happens, we must defend this university and the program. This is not a football scandal. We must fight. We owe it to the student-athletes, coaches, administrators, faculty, and alumni who have done things the right way in all sports for decades. We can’t let them take that away.”
Unfortunately I would be proven right.
Jay faced round of interviews from State Police in January of 2012. An officer started to ask Jay questions about victims traveling with Jerry Sandusky to practice or trips after he retired. Jay says this did not happen, as they were closed to players and coaches.
The next question was even more puzzling. “We understand that Jerry was able to arrange for his victims to dress for football games,” he said.
“You mean in uniform,” I asked.
I allowed that I didn’t personally check every uniform, but I doubted that story. We would notice a 10-or 12-year-old in uniform among oversized college players.
“We have a picture of one,” he said.
He showed me the picture, and I laughed.
“This young man is one of the victims,” he said, pointing to a player in uniform without his helmet on and standing next next to Joe on the sidelines of a game.
“No, it’s not,” I said. “That’s Shane McGregor.”
He wanted to know how I was so sure. I explained that Shane was still on the team, that I had coached him for four years, and that the picture he was holding was from the Outback Bowl on January 1, 2011.
If they were so off on this, I wondered what else they might have gotten wrong.
In February 2013, police officers came to the Paternos’ door because Jay had received death threats on social media.
Since the story broke, we’d had a tree cut down, and our house was egged. We also had stopped putting our garbage out the night before trash day because we feared media members going through it.
There were three things you didn’t talk about in the Paterno house: Office business, money, and anything related to or that might allude to anything sexual. The third of the options was tough to talk about to the team, too, so Joe brought in professionals to do it. As Jay put it:
In a staff meeting, one of the coaches suggested that the message might be more effective coming from him. “You think they want to hear a guy in his mid-70s talk to them about that stuff?” Joe said. “I’m not even sure I remember exactly what happens anymore.” He laughed.
The aversion to sex discussions shed more light on how Paterno was disposed to perceive Sandusky’s actions. Jay recalls when later-dropped assault allegations against two of Penn State’s players came about, that the woman consented to have sex with either of them individually but not both at the same time. When it was brought to Joe, he said, “she had sex with the two of them…at the same time? How is that possible?”
On a walk in the park, he got the same puzzled look on his face as when we discussed the Jerry Sandusky case in the last months of his life. What happened was hard for him to process. The people of 1930s Brooklyn did not talk about this stuff, as he explained when we were talking about this case. “Look, Jay,” he said, “if this was going on back then, I certainly never knew about it. If something like this had happened where I grew up, that person would have been beaten to within an inch of his life. No one would talk about it or know why. It was a different time and place. Maybe it was better, maybe it wasn’t. I don’t know.”
“Who knows, Dad?”
“But how could this happen here?”
“Dad, this happens in every town in America.”
He looked through the low sunlight of early December in Sunset Park and frowned. The lines on his face and forehead seemed to have grown in the weeks of the scandal. The park had been a place of childhood play, of dreams of tossing footballs, of bank shots on the basketball court, and neighborhood football games.
Now it was a place to unburden a soul of regret.
“Jay, he fooled me.”
“Dad, he fooled me, he fooled everyone.”
That didn’t ease his mind. There was a feeling there that either his age or being unaware had allowed something like this to happen.
One of the book’s shortest chapters is the nineteenth, “My Story,” in which Jay reveals that he was approached for oral sex by an adult as a 12-year old.
In the summer of 1981, I made the 10-minute walk across campus to downtown State College. After I bought a new Journey album, I took a bus to a friend’s house in the Park Forest neighborhood.
By late afternoon it was time to take the bus back and walk home from the on-campus stop. I sat by myself with the album under one arm. I just sat looking out the window. I guess I didn’t even notice the guy until he pointed at the album under my arm. “Is that any good?” he asked.
“I just got it today,” I answered.
The conversation started with a discussion of the album. He mentioned he was visiting, so he asked questions about town or where to eat.
All these years later, I realize his approach was to get me talking about myself, start to size me up. After a few more stops, other people got off the bus. Near campus he told me we were hoping off the bus at the same stop. “I am here for a conference and I am staying at The Nittany Lion Inn,” he said.
When we got out, he asked me for directions to the hotel, and I pointed him in the right direction. Then he got to the point of his approaching me. “Why don’t you come back there with me?” he asked.
“What for?” I asked.
“Look, I am here for a conference. I have a girlfriend at home and when I am away I do not like to cheat on her.”
“What’s that got to do with me?” I asked.
My 12-year-old mind didn’t see his angle.
“Well I don’t like to sleep with other women. But if you come back to the hotel, we could have oral sex.”
“What?” I asked.
“Just come back to the hotel, and we’ll have a good time.”
“Um,” I stammered, “that’s really not my thing.”
This had taken me by complete surprise. I was uncomfortable and looked around for other people. It was still daylight. Some people were around but too far to hear our conversation but close enough to see if he grabbed me trying to flee.
He didn’t give up. “Are you sure?” He asked. “We’ll have a really good time.”
“I need to go home now. My parents have dinner waiting for me,” I said.
I was sick to my stomach and wanted to get home right away.
“It’s really okay,” he said. “It is okay. There’s nothing wrong with it, and as I said, I just don’t want to sleep with another woman.”
“I’m pretty sure your girlfriend wouldn’t be okay with this. I’m going home.”
I headed toward my home as quickly as possible.
Confused, I blamed myself for his proposition. Now at age 45, I know this is a common reaction. How could this happen in my town? The entire existence of my life I’d believed in this safe, sheltered cocoon of Happy Valley.
His offer made me feel guilty. The truth, which isn’t always easy for a child to see, was that I’d done nothing wrong. I’d gotten on a bus and politely answered a stranger’s questions and then walked away when he did something inappropriate.
But when I walked into my house, I told no one in my family about what had happened to me.
I feared that I’d be judged. The feelings I was grappling with were all directed internally. Did I somehow invite that? What was wrong with me that some man would ask me to do that?
All these years later, I look back and recall how I felt because of something I didn’t do, something I avoided. Then I try to imagine a young man who was sexually abused by someone they knew and trusted. There is no way I can imagine what they must be feeling, but my experience has shown me part of what the internal reaction must be like.
After the November 2011 Nebraska game, Joe told Jay he was proud of how he did on the sidelines for the first time without his father.
“Well, I have to tell you that what you did was noticed by a lot of people. I heard from Presidents Bush today. They both called. The father called first and then the younger President Bush called. In fact he told me how proud I should be of my son and how you coach.”
Hearing what former President George W. Bush has said meant a great deal to me. For the generation that produced my father and President George H. W. Bush, loyalty was everything. When my father needed it most, I saw where they stood.
Jay reveals that Paterno considered leaving the program after the 16-3 loss to Wisconsin in 2004. The husband of one of Jay’s sisters (though Jay does not specify which one) had been badly injured in an accident, and Paterno told Jay:
“Jay,” he said to me, “maybe it is time to get out.”
“Why is that?” I asked.
“If he isn’t OK, I can retire, and your mother and I will help take care of the kids. Your sister may need a lot of help.”
Questions about Joe’s mental state started as early as 2002, when he was 75:
As he got older, some people just told him what he wanted to hear to his face while grousing behind his back. As early as the 2002 season, I warned him about the shifting loyalties of some trustees.
One of them pulled me aside at my parents’ home after a game that season. He had the audacity to ask if in my opinion: “Is Joe still all there mentally?”
“Ed,” I said [refers to Hintz], “he’s all there.”
Ten years after questions arose about his mental state, Joe died at the age of 85. Jay recounts Joe’s final moments.
Tears came to my mother’s eyes. I witnessed one of the most beautiful moments of my entire life. In a sterile hospital room full of monitors and the scent of sickness, a light shone on my mother and father. My father’s eyes opened wide as my mother pressed her forehead to his, grabbed his hand, and through the tears sang along in a voice strong and clear. Part of me felt I should leave them there, allow them that moment. But God wanted me there to see true love.
The rest of my family started to arrive. I asked Wayne Sebastianelli to sneak in a bottle of Old Grandad. With my mother, my siblings, and Guido assembled, we poured the bourbon and had a toast to my father. Mary gave some to my dad, and he smiled.
On my way toward the bus, I ran into a familiar face. It was Dave Richardson. He worked stadium security for years and always found Joe in the crowded postgame field and walked him to the locker room. He had a tear in his eye on this cold, icy day and hugged me. “Jay,” he asked. “I just came here because I wanted to walk your dad out one last time.”
When the service was over, I stayed until everyone left. I was all alone with him. I talked to him, I asked for his help. But there were no answers, so I walked alone across a snowy road into the rest of my life.