Continued from page 1

It’s not, though the argument has now mostly shifted to how he will be remembered. The battle Paterno supporters are now waging is one for his legacy, but what they don’t understand is that the wounds are still too raw for this to be a fight they can win.

To most of the country Paterno is either a villain who was more interested in protecting his program than young children or a doddering old man who had no idea what was going on around him. The things that happened around Penn State are so horrific that no one is particularly interested at this time in talking about his wins (409 of them before 111 were vacated by the NCAA), his influence on generations of young men, or his contributions to build the library on campus that bears his name.

That might change some as the years go by, but that’s reality today. The sooner Paterno supporters understand that, the sooner the school and the football team can begin to move on.

The opener against Ohio was the perfect opportunity to begin that process, at least on the field. The team was cheered at a big pep rally the night before, the run from the tunnel onto the field was electric, and the first half showed that it was possible for someone other than Paterno to coach Penn State football.

Getting fired up was one thing. Staying fired up was another, and by the second half the emotional gas tank they had been running on finally went dry.

An 11-point halftime lead became a 24-14 loss that doesn’t bode well for a program with bigger challenges ahead. For four long years, Penn State will be forced to compete at a huge disadvantage in the Big Ten, all with the knowledge that there will be no rewards waiting at the end of the season.

The tough times won’t end with the games. Sandusky is in prison, but the scandal lives on. There will be settlements with victims, payouts from university funds. And it could all be replayed again as early as January when former athletic director Tim Curley and university vice president Gary Schultz are expected to go on trial on charges they lied to a grand jury about the scandal and did not properly report a 2001 sexual assault accusation to authorities.

As painful as Saturday was for Penn State and its fans, what’s even worse is that the punishment is far from over.

____

Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg