Penn State lettermen set to show support for Paterno

(Allentown) Morning Call (TNS)
  • About 500 former Penn State players will attend a private event to honor Joe Paterno on Friday.
  • Saturday, the school will commemorate the 50th anniversary of Paterno's first game as PSU's coach.
  • Penn State has not indicated how it plans to recognize the anniversary.

About 500 former Penn State football players, spanning five decades of teams, will hold a reunion Friday in State College to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Joe Paterno's first game as head coach.

The private event, which is not affiliated with the university, will be a "celebration of (the players') contributions to The Grand Experiment and its Golden Legacy of academic and athletic excellence that became a national model," according to a news release from Paterno family spokesman Dan McGinn.

Former Penn State coach Joe Paterno, above, will be portrayed by Al Pacino is an upcoming HBO movie about the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

The event will be held at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, the baseball field near Beaver Stadium.

"Joe Paterno had an extraordinary career at Penn State and he had an extraordinary impact on his players," said Tom Donchez, a member of the lettermen's group that organized the event. "All of us feel very strongly about his influence in our lives. He wanted us to have lives after football, and he wanted us to do the best we could."

Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of Paterno's first game as Penn State's head coach. The reunion will bring together players dating to that 1966 team, Donchez said.

Donchez, a Bethlehem resident who played at Penn State in the 1970s, said the reunion is independent of the university. Penn State has announced separate plans to commemorate the anniversary at Saturday's game against Temple, whose coach, Matt Rhule, also played for Penn State.

Penn State has not indicated how it plans to recognize the anniversary. PSU's decision to commemorate Paterno's anniversary has met with a social media backlash.

Plans for the reunion began last fall, when Sue Paterno announced the event. Donchez said that many of Penn State's best-known players are expected to attend.

"At least when we began this, it didn't seem as if anybody was going to do anything to recognize this anniversary," Donchez said. "We just took it upon ourselves to do it, and if the university does something and catches up, God bless them."

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Football Lettermen's Club's Joe and Sue Paterno post-graduate scholarship, which awards grants to football players to attend graduate school.

EDITORIAL: Paterno commemoration a 'tone deaf' decision

"The one thing I feel strongly about is that Joe always wanted his players to remember where they came from and to be close to each other," Donchez said. "He would be the happiest person in the world to look down and see us celebrating our collective history. He always told us that it was important to appreciate each other and stick together. And so here we are."

Franklin says Pitt's pre-snap clapping wasn't legal: The game might be said and done, but Penn State is still clapping back at Pitt about, of course, clapping.

Coach James Franklin lamented after the Nittany Lions’ 42-39 loss Saturday at Heinz Field that Pitt’s defense was clapping ahead of the snap, which threw off the Penn State offense. Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi responded after the game, saying it was “just another excuse” from the losing side.

Franklin had another retort at his weekly press conference Tuesday when asked about any clarity he received from the Big Ten Conference on the clap cadence calamity.

“It’s illegal,” Franklin said. “You’re not allowed to do that.

“There’s no way to rectify these things,” Franklin said. “We turn plays in each week to the officials. The officials do a great job. I run plays by not because it’s going to change anything but to make sure were on the same page in understanding the rules and how we’re teaching it and how we’re coaching it. The other thing is, if things like that are allowable, that we’re doing the same thing. We use it for education for our staff. I think it’s also used with the officials moving forward. But it’s not anything you pull back. It’s not anything that can happen retroactively.”

The official NCAA rules state, “No player shall use words or signals that disconcert opponents when they are preparing to put the ball in play. No player may call defensive signals that simulate the sound or cadence of (or otherwise interfere with) offensive starting signals.”

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Trace McSorley said Pitt’s clapping was something to which the offense had to adjust on the sidelines and change up the cadence. And while Narduzzi had said after the game Saturday that his defense used the clapping to signal each other in Week 1 against Villanova, McSorley wasn’t too sure about that.

“I hadn’t seen them clapping on the film the prior week,” McSorley said. “But I mean, if that’s what Coach Narduzzi said, I don’t know what they were talking about on their side. So I guess that is what it is.”

Megan Ryan of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS) contributed to this report.