What is Joe Paterno's legacy at Penn State? New ESPN film leaves question unanswered

Centre Daily Times (TNS)
Joe Paterno

More than 10 years after he was fired by Penn State and then died a couple months later, ESPN took an in-depth look at the legacy of former Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno.

The film — titled "The Paterno Legacy" — was produced by Michael Sciallo and reported by John Barr and will air on ESPN on Monday at 8 p.m. It's one of several recent ESPN projects that in some way examines Paterno's impact on the Penn State football program.

The 49-minute, 36-second long film immediately dives into the synonymity between Penn State and Paterno, with former Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin discussing how players who wanted to be a Nittany Lion also made the choice to play for Paterno, but doesn't dig much deeper in what became a trend of the film.

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Much of the first half of the film is spent reviewing what was already known — outlining Jerry Sandusky's crimes, the role of the Penn State administration in enabling him and its impact on how Paterno was viewed. However, it is interspersed with new interviews of multiple key figures in the scandal, including former university president Graham Spanier and former vice president Gary Schultz, along with several others.

Still, the film serves more as an overview of what occurred at Paterno's lowest and highest points of his tenure rather than a referendum on what any of it means.

Most interesting footbage: The two most interesting pieces of footage are played when Aaron Fisher, the first victim of Sandusky's abuse to come forward, is interviewed by Barr. Fisher recounts his own suicide attempt and life after the abuse.

The film begins its fourth and final act with an interaction from Nov. 17, 2021 where Barr presses current Penn State head coach James Franklin to discuss Paterno's legacy at a weekly post practice press conference. Franklin declines to comment and focus on the week's opponent — Rutgers — and the current state of the program.

More:Former Penn State All-American sues coach, university, alleges years of abuse

That is the extent of the current program's appearance in the overview, with a final interview between Barr and Sandusky over the phone that does little to add much value to what is already known about the convicted sexual predator.

While "The Paterno Legacy" does not give a definitive answer on what the former head coach's legacy is, it does summarize much of what occurred that could tarnish the legacy of the coach, and includes why he was so revered on the football field.

Not only PSU film by ESPN: It is not the only Penn State related film ESPN is set to release this year.

"Betsy & Irv" is set to be released by ESPN Films as a short film and will be released later this season. It details the relationship between former Penn State football player Irv Pankey and Betsy Sailor, a victim of convicted sexual predator Todd Hodne — one of Pankey's former teammates.

It follows an expansive report published this week by ESPN that details Hodne's horrific, under-reported crimes.

Pankey notably visited Sailor after a court appearance and stood with her against his teammate.

Paterno was also the subject of a 2018 HBO film with Al Pacino playing the former coach.