A group of Penn State alumni and fans will hold a candlelight vigil at Beaver Stadium on Saturday in honor of Joe Paterno.
Organizers estimate that as many as 2,000 people will participate in the vigil for the late Penn State coach following the team's Homecoming football game against Michigan. They also hope it becomes an annual event.
Heather Wilson, a 1995 Penn State graduate, created a Facebook page dedicated to the vigil, which is scheduled to begin at the former site of the Paterno statue outside the stadium. Wilson said in an email that by the group plans to recognize Paterno, who died in January 2012, by "circling the stadium with light."
"We want to honor tradition and Penn State's proud history of Success with Honor," Wilson said. "While we love our new Coach [Bill] O'Brien and all of our scholar athletes, students and most especially this football team, we also remember and honor Coach Joe Paterno. Since the University seems to be unwilling or unable to do any remembrance of his life, we wanted to do this event."
Lisa Powers, Penn State's director of public information, said the university is aware of the vigil and does not expect to alter its security or traffic plans because of it. The football game is sold out, with more than 107,000 spectators anticipated.
"[W]hile we are aware of the social media buzz, we have no changes in our game day protocol planned," Powers said in an email. "We're just gearing up for a big crowd overall and a win over Michigan!"
According to the Facebook event page, participants are encouraged to bring small LED candles to the vigil. The devices can be brought into Beaver Stadium as long as they fit into the clear plastic bags permitted in the stadium.
Afterward, according to the Facebook page, participants will gather at the former statue site to spell 'JVP' or '409' with the candles. Paterno won 409 games as Penn State's coach, though 111 of those were vacated as part of the NCAA sanctions last year.
At Penn State home games this year, references to Paterno, who was fired in November 2011, have been minimal. A pre-game video showing historic football highlights features two shots of Paterno, both of which have drawn ovations when they appeared.
Penn State also honored the 1972 unbeaten football team at halftime of its home-opener against Eastern Michigan but did not mention Paterno, who coached the team, by name.
On its Progress website detailing Penn State's response to the Jerry Sandusky scandal, the university maintains this official position on recognizing Paterno.
"This is a sensitive topic and one which has been discussed for some time. Joe Paterno did a lot of tremendous things for the University and we need to take appropriate time, reflection and distance to consider his life as a whole before deciding if and how best to honor his contributions to Penn State."