On the floor of Congress, lawmakers lionized Penn State’s Joe Paterno
How quickly a hero rises–and sometimes keeps rising, despite a fall–as was the case with Joe Paterno, who today was posthumously stripped of his record for the most wins for victories for college football coaches thanks to scandal surrounding convicted former coach Jerry Sandusky's child abuse.
Once the hero in his home state and beyond, a search of mentions of the name "Joe Paterno" on Sunlight's Capitol Words shows the peak at 88 in November 2001, soon after the coach led Penn State to break the record for NCAA division I-A victories, reaching the 324 mark, defeating Ohio State by 29 to 27. That was the month that Pennsylvania's then-senators, Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum, both Republicans, introduced a resolution honoring him for, among other things, "his constant integrity, professionalism, and strong focus on charachter building for amateur athletes." A similar resolution was introduced and passed in the House. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., a Penn State alum, also speechified to Paterno's glory.
A similar round of congratulations went to Joe Paterno in November 2010, after the coach's 400th win as Penn State's coach, with Paterno being commended for "setting an on- and off-the-field example of honor, success, integrity, and respect for thousands of players, coaches, students, and fans throughout the nation."
As late as June 2011, Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, noted that Paterno, like Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, had won an award from the Sons of Italy Foundation; In March 2011, Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., was congratulating Joe and Susan Paterno for winning the American Jewish Committee Leadership award.
Then, in February 2012, a few months after the Sandusky scandal broke, the number of mentions peaked again. This time, it was in response, however, to news of Paterno's death at 85 from cancer. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., lauded Paterno's "accomplishments as a teacher and a coach" and noted that these accomplishments "were both on the field and on the campus." Thompson wins the award for mentioning Joe Paterno the most in his speechifying. No direct mention was made by the lawmakers who spoke that day–February 9–of Sandusky.