Award of Excellence
"WE WERE PENN STATE"
In a Pennsylvania town known as "Happy Valley" football is religion. But in 2011, a scandal exposed State College for sin. Legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, once the winningest coach in major college football, a title he received just 10 days before he was fired in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, died at the age of 85, on January 22, 2012 in State College, Pennsylvania. Paterno ended his historic career marred in scandal, as former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of 45 charges of child sex abuse five-months to the date of Paterno's death. This news shocked and horrified the Penn State community and, on a national level, cast light on the nature of pedophilia and the silence and denial that often accompany it. Six months after his death, the Paterno statue was torn to the ground and the worst scandal in the history of college sports led the NCAA to impose unprecedented penalties against the Penn State football program for its involvement in the sexual abuse scandal that centered on Sandusky. Among other sanctions, Penn State football wins from 1998 to 2011 were vacated, which meant that Paterno, who oversaw the Nittany Lions' football program for nearly 46 years, was no longer is the sport's all-time winningest coach. Loss and celebration, shock and confusion, these are the images that document the aforementioned, and emotions, that consumed the school's psyche during a tranquil year in 2012, and that took an emotional toll on the Penn State community that left them in disbelief following Paterno's death.
A man reaches out to touch the statue of Joe Paterno, the former Penn State football coach, shortly after hearing of 85-year-olds death, complications of lung cancer, outside of Beaver Stadium on Sunday, January 22, 2012 in State College, Pennsylvania. While Paterno was once the winningest coach in major college football, he ended his historic career mired in scandal, and his statue became a highly debated topic since the release of the Louis Freeh report in July 2012, which concluded that Paterno was aware of allegations levied against convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky in 1998. The statue was later torn down and NCAA sanctions vacated 111 of Paterno's once-record 409 victories dropping on the list of most winning coaches ever, to number twelve.