My Dad Is One of Many Whose Memory of Joe Paterno Remains Positive

FILE - In this March 29, 2008 file photo, Penn State coach Joe Paterno laughs during a news conference after coaching an NCAA
FILE - In this March 29, 2008 file photo, Penn State coach Joe Paterno laughs during a news conference after coaching an NCAA college football practice in State College, Pa. Supporters of Paterno are marking the 1-year anniversary of his death with a candlelight vigil on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

Daytime talk shows are not typically something I mark in my calendar to watch. But Monday afternoon, after my classes at Northwestern University, I rushed to the television and switched to watch Katie Couric. Immediately, a video backdrop of Joe Paterno leading a sea of navy blue players from the locker room filled the screen for Katie.

Sue Paterno, widow of Penn State's former head coach, was finally about to speak out regarding her late husband's involvement with the Jerry Sandusky criminal scandal. And while I'll admit I'm not sold on her opinion that Sandusky taking boys to showers in the locker room was just "Jerry being Jerry," I so badly wanted to believe her when she said that if the experts hadn't known of Sandusky's wrongs, how was she and her family to have known?

Growing up completely inundated with Penn State, I'll be the first to admit that my view of the school, the sports, the coaches is tainted. My dad played football for Paterno throughout his four years there. Many summers growing up I attended a basketball camp at Penn State. My dad would fly up early with me so he could play in the Second Mile Golf Tournament -- the non-profit organization that Sandusky founded in 1977, and the one forever attached to the crimes committed in its name.

One year after the death of Penn State's head coach Paterno, once the winningest coach in college football, we are reminded he was stripped of 111 wins in light of crimes committed by assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Paterno was accused of knowing of the crimes and not reporting them to proper authorities.

Paterno left Penn State in 2011, shortly after the accusations became public. He died Jan. 22, 2012 at the age of 85.

I will never condone crimes of this magnitude. Any information about this case should have immediately been reported to the police. It is sickening and disheartening that child endangerment would ever be ignored.

But, against all higher reason, some of us couldn't help but feel saddened when the family shared the news of Paterno's death. The university website displayed photos of students holding a candlelight vigil. Officials announced they were tearing down his statue.

Even now, one year later, students and fans attended a vigil commemorating the anniversary of Paterno's death where they lit 409 candles representing each of his wins before some were taken away, according to the Associated Press.

Sandusky was found guilty of 45 of 48 counts of sexual abuse charges Oct. 9, 2012. A jury found that he molested 10 boys during 15 years. The 69-year-old former assistant coach is serving at least 30 years in prison. No love for a school can ever remedy that. The pain inflicted on the children and their families can never be taken back.

Perhaps we will never fully know the truth about Paterno's involvement with these heinous crimes. Some people say he will be vindicated while others say he has no right to be. My dad is among many of Paterno's former players who will forever defend the coach's character.

Whether or not we ever reach a consensus, there are people around the country, myself included, who will probably never hate this man. Because he stood for something bigger. A team full of players whose last names were not printed on their jerseys because in football there are no individuals. A team that graduates 80 percent of its players and was ranked first academically in a 2011 report by the New America Foundation.

As we move forward, let us not define an institution by individuals' ruinous mistakes. By instating a four-year ban from postseason play and cutting the amount of football scholarships Penn State can award, among other sanctions, the National Collegiate Athletic Association is punishing the wrong people.

My dad truly loved and respected Paterno. But beyond that he loved Penn State. He still wears his navy blue colors and will forever cheer on his team.

Penn State's football program received its first recruiting class since last year's sanctions on Feb. 6. Notable recruits Garrett Sickels and Brendan Mahon are signing with Penn State despite the sanctions that were imposed more than a year ago. They have decided to stick with Penn State even with all the sanctions because they felt tied to the school and the type of community it embodies, according to Penn State's website.

And that is something that the National Collegiate Athletic Association can never take away.

Rachel Graf is a journalism student at The Medill School at Northwestern University and the daughter of a Penn State football player under Joe Paterno.