STATE COLLEGE — Joe Paterno, the living embodiment of Penn State and its football program, kept a low profile Saturday as his last team took on Nebraska, but his name and image won’t disappear from campus any time soon.
Someone opened the door at his modest home in the College Heights neighborhood — near the center of campus — to let in a mail carrier during the game who was delivering a crate filled to the brim with cards and letters.
There was little other activity there, a week after former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky — Paterno’s one-time heir apparent — was charged with sexually abusing eight boys over 15 years, along with two school administrators accused of failing to report suspected child abuse to authorities.
Outside Beaver Stadium, fans flocked to a statue of Paterno even after kickoff, posing for photos and signing a banner that said, “God bless Joe Paterno.”
“He’s not the one who did the deed,” said Tom Moldovan, 49, a salesman from Huntington, N.Y., carrying a sign for wesupportpaterno.com. “He did what he was supposed to do.”
Paterno’s son Jay, an assistant coach, told reporters earlier Saturday he was unsure where or with whom his father would be watching the game, and calls to the public relations office now representing him were not immediately returned.
The idea that the coach, who has been on the sidelines of Penn State football games since the Truman administration, might be home watching it on television struck many fans as almost too sad for words.
“How can you lose a whole legacy in three or four days?” said Harold Hunt, 57, a York law firm employee at a tailgate party. “It’s like a Greek tragedy.”
Inside the Paterno Library, funded in part by a $3.5 million donation from Paterno himself several years ago, biochemistry undergraduate Chris Natale said the 84-year-old coach’s work on behalf of the wider university was a big part of his legacy.
“He’s going to live on for Penn State forever,” said Natale, who was working on immunology homework while most of the school was watching the game. “I still like his library.”
Peachy Paterno — peach ice cream with peach slices — sold briskly on Saturday at the Creamery on campus, and there was word that “Paternoville” — the tent encampment that springs up so students can reserve the best seats at home games — would be keeping its moniker.
A few blocks from the Paterno home, work has begun on another, more visible and more permanent part of the Paterno family legacy. The Suzanne Pohland Paterno Catholic Student Faith Center is under construction.