Five years after losing his job as assistant coach on the Nittany Lions football team, Jay Paterno will return to Penn State as one of three new members of the university’s Board of Trustees.
Paterno, the son of disgraced former Nittany Lions Coach Joe Paterno, called his victory Friday “a statement of your love for this University” and promised “to represent first and foremost the interests of Penn State and its diverse coalition of constituents,” including students, alumni, faculty staff and others.
“While some have tried to affix other motives to this candidacy, be assured I will join this Board in July with an extended hand,” he said. “Together we can build on the enduring pride and values that have never wavered and have always been the foundations of our Alma Mater.”
Statement on the Trustee Election: pic.twitter.com/mhwBPp1cwv
— Jay Paterno (@JayPaterno) May 5, 2017
While some celebrated the younger Paterno’s victory, others decried it on social media.
When Penn State puts Jay Paterno on its Board of Trustees pic.twitter.com/dvOun3S2dH
— Ryan Ginn (@rmginn) May 5, 2017
Jay isn't Joe…but keeping the Paterno name around is further proof that Penn State either doesn't get it or (worse) doesn't care.
— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) May 5, 2017
Out of 7 billion people, Penn State hires Jay Paterno pic.twitter.com/eX9ofXJCwr
— FountainOfSmart (@FountainOfSmart) May 5, 2017
Their reasoning stems from Paterno’s father, whom is alleged to have known more than he let on about his staffer Jerry Sandusky’s nefarious activities. In 2012, less than a year after Joe Paterno died of lung cancer, Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of sexual abuse. Sandusky was employed as an assistant coach for Paterno from 1969 to 1999.
The Paterno family has staunchly defended its former patriarch, disputing the conclusions of a report sanctioned by the university that concluded Joe Paterno knew of and helped conceal some of Sandusky’s crimes.
On Friday, Jay Paterno did not appear to want to embark on his new position as trustee with a clean slate, however. In a statement to ESPN, he specifically brought up his family’s deep connection to the university, including his father’s.
“When you look at it, between my mom and dad and my family, we’ve been connected with Penn State for more than a century, when you add up all the years we’ve given there,” Paterno told the network. “We feel very strongly about the university and what it can be. There are some challenges at Penn State and in higher education around the country, and I thought it was time for me to get involved.”
Paterno, who received the largest number of votes in the election, racking up 16,322 votes out of a total of 21,233 ballots, PennLive.com reports, will take up his seat in July. He will be joined by two others who also won seats on Friday, including St. John’s University associate professor Alice Pope and former Pennsylvania State Majority Leader Robert Jubelirer. They received 14,744 votes and 13,173 votes, respectively.