Penn State assistant coach Jay Paterno says his father is sad for how the university’s child sexual abuse has impacted children, and insisted the team’s coaching staff was not aware of any of the allegations against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
In an interview with ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi that was shown Saturday morning on SportsCenter, the younger Paterno also said he heard of former head coach Joe Paterno’s lung cancer diagnosis on Tuesday.
He said after speaking to his mother, his brothers and his wife, he determined that “when all is said and done, it’s very treatable and he’s going to beat it. If there’s one guy I know that can beat it, it’s him.”
Paterno added that when he approached his father to talk about the cancer diagnosis, “He just waved me off: ‘Ah, don’t bug me about that. I’ll be fine. Go worry about coaching the football team, don’t worry about me.’”
Paterno said concern over his father’s health was one reason why the elder Paterno hasn’t commented on the scandal, which broke following the announcement two weeks ago of a 40-count indictment of Sandusky on child sexual abuse charges.
As for when he will speak, his son said, “When the time comes, the time comes.
“That’s going to be for him to decide,” he said. “I don’t want to put words in his mouth. But I think the most important thing right now is to focus on his health. When that happens, I’m sure he’ll be happy to sit down and talk, but that’s up to him.”
Jay Paterno said the events of the last two weeks “really turns (your world) upside down and tests your faith in a lot of things” and compared the situation to the book of Job in the Bible.
“Job went from having everything to having nothing,” he said. “You’ve got to make sure you keep focused on the victims of this whole tragedy. So this is where a lot of prayers are going for us.”
Asked about the low point for his father since the scandal broke, an event that led to his firing on Nov. 9, Paterno said, “He’s a father, he’s a grandfather. Every time my kids are in his house, its hugs, there’s so much love there.
“He has done so much for children and for young people, my mom and dad both. I think it really has struck them that this has impacted young people. I think that’s been the biggest things, it’s impacted young people in a way that’s negative.”
Paterno said most members of the Penn State coaching staff didn’t find out about the investigation of Sandusky until investigators visited them and started asking questions.
“We kind of said, ‘What are you guys talking about?’” he said. “It kind of surprised a lot of us … shocking because it’s something we were not aware of.”
Paterno didn’t directly comment on the decision of the Big Ten to remove his father’s name from the championship trophy, other than to say, “Let’s get there and win it and put it back on.”
“That was my reaction – we’ll bring a nice yellow post-it note and we’ll stick it right back one,” he said. “But we’ve got to get to the game first.”