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Pennsylvania Senators Withdraw Support for Joe Paterno Nomination for Medal of Freedom

 

Bad day for Joe Paterno.

The former Penn State football coach, scarred by scandal after he was booted by the university Board of Trustees for not doing enough to report allegations his former defensive coordinator was molesting kids, has lost his senators' support for his nomination to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

"In light of the recent events in State College, we are rescinding our support for the nomination of Joe Paterno for the Presidential Medal of Freedom," Sens. Pat Toomey, a Republican, and Bob Casey, a Democrat, said in a joint statement. 

"We hope the proper authorities will move forward with their investigation without delay. Penn State is an important institution in our commonwealth. We should turn our attention to the victims of these atrocious crimes and ensure they get the help they need. Our hearts and prayers go out to them and their families," they said.

The two senators and Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., nominated Joe Pa for the nation's highest civilian honor in September, citing the coach's contributions to athletics and higher education. 

In a letter to President Obama, the lawmakers cited what was at the time Paterno's career wins and long tenure, including two national championships and three Big Ten titles.

They said his efforts off the field were just as notable. The Nittany Lions team has had 16 Hall of Fame Scholar-Athletes, 47 Academic All-Americans and 18 NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship winners under Paterno.

Just last month, Paterno became the winningest coach in Division I football history with his 409th victory, as the Nittany Lions expanded their season record to 8-1 and reached 12th in the AP NCAA rankings. 

Paterno has twice been honored in the House for his coaching and his commitment to academics, service and citizenship, most recently last November, when Thompson sponsored a resolution congratulating Paterno for reaching 400 wins. It passed 417-3.

But his legacy was cut down this week after more than 40 charges were filed against Jerry Sandusky, who left as defensive coordinator in 1999, for allegedly molesting boys under the nose of the football staff and team. 

The U.S. Department of Education has launched an investigation into the matter under rules that require disclosure of campus crimes. 

Paterno, who was cleared by state officials of any legal wrongdoing, apparently reported the allegations to his boss, Athletic Director Tim Curley. Curley and Gary Schultz, vice president for finance and business, have been charged with perjury in connection with their testimony before a grand jury considering the evidence against Sandusky. They failed to notify authorities about the abuse, prosecutors said. 

Mike McQueary, now an assistant coach at the university, who allegedly witnessed Sandusky showering with a young boy in 2002, reported the incident to Paterno, but never notified police.

McQueary will be with the team this Saturday in the Nittany Lions' game against Nebraska Paterno, who offered to retire at the end of the season -- his 46th as head coach, will not.