Movement aiming to rename Beaver Stadium in coach's honor

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- One Penn State University student sees it as a tribute on a scale that would fit the man.

Another believes it might help repair the damaged relationship between the state's flagship public university and the family of its legendary late football coach.

Still another said simply this about why the university ought to rename all or part of Beaver Stadium for Joe Paterno.

"Yankee Stadium is the house that Ruth built. Beaver Stadium is the house that Paterno built," said Anthony Sardella, 21, a Penn State senior from Albany, N.Y. "I think it's very appropriate."

In the days since the 85-year-old coach died from complications of lung cancer, interest among alumni, students and others has surged in putting the Paterno name on either the 107,000-seat stadium or its football field, which together became a national sports landmark thanks to America's winningest major college football coach.

One online petition site, Make "Paterno Field" at Beaver Stadium, reported that it had collected nearly 21,000 signatures as of late Wednesday, a sum that more than doubled in a day. For a time Wednesday night, it was gathering signatures at a rate of 10 per minute.

Blake Tobias, listed on the site as the petition's creator, could not be reached for comment. His site explains the reasons for the drive.

"[Paterno] was so much more than just a football coach, he was a mentor to thousands of students over the years, probably in the hundreds of thousands," the site states. "This is a way to honor the legacy that he worked so hard to create. We will stand tall, we will right the wrong that has been done to his name."

Vincent J. Tedesco Jr., of the Class of 1964, said he wants to propose the name "Beaver Field at Paterno Stadium." Mr. Tedesco is running for a seat on the board of trustees.

Mr. Paterno was fired Nov. 9 amid a national media firestorm over the arrest days earlier of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who faces 52 criminal counts relating to charges he sexually abused 10 boys over 15 years.

Penn State's board of trustees said it fired the coach in part because members felt Mr. Paterno should have done more to alert law enforcement once he learned in 2002 of an allegation that Mr. Sandusky sexually assaulted a boy in a campus shower. Instead, Mr. Paterno told his superiors, and the incident went unreported to police for years.

Bill Mahon, a Penn State spokesman, said the university and its board of trustees know of interest in the idea of renaming the stadium dating back at least to last summer.

"There are a lot of suggestions being made, and that's understandable considering the impact Joe Paterno's had on the school and the community," he said. "The board will be looking at those and discussing ideas of their own in the coming months."

He said trustees are not going to take immediate action concerning the stadium, now named for a former governor, but added, "They're listening."

Some of the thousands of onlookers who lined campus roads Wednesday for a glimpse of Mr. Paterno's funeral procession said they liked the stadium idea.

"I think it would be a very nice gesture," said Benjamin Pease, 21, of Landisville, Pa., near Lancaster.

But some, such as Penn State senior Mariessa Molloy, 21, of Sewell, N.J., were clearly struggling to reconcile the image of a coach and donor who did so much for Penn State over the decades, with a man trustees say -- in at least once key instance -- should have done more. She said she's neither strongly for nor against the renaming.

"Although I do love 'JoePa,' I just feel really let down by everything that happened. I just feel confused about the topic," she said. "It's just a really sad, unfortunate sequence of events."

Bill Schackner: or 412-263-1977


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