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Penn State grieves loss of Joe Paterno, will honor his legacy

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Mount Nittany Medical Center was barely a half-mile from Beaver Stadium, the Nittany Lions' home field that Paterno helped make into one of college football's shrines during his 46 seasons as Penn State head coach.

While in the hospital, trustees just a couple miles away at a campus hotel on Thursday told of why they fired Paterno and cited in part a failure to fulfill his moral responsibility in connection with the 2002 allegation.

His lawyer, Wick Sollers, called the allegations self-serving and reiterated that Paterno fully reported what he knew to the people responsible for campus investigations.

"I think his legacy should be everything wonderful he did here for Penn State and for the community.

That's what I hope," Karen Long, 70, of State College, said at the women's basketball game Sunday afternoon between Iowa and Penn State.

"I don't think he was treated fairly, though. Just the way they handled firing him was awful."

Against that backdrop, school leaders, the Paterno family and the university community fractured by the scandal appear to be slowly mending relationships.

In recent weeks, university leaders have indicated they intend to honor Paterno's contributions on and off the field - a sharp contrast to tones sounded in the frantic first week of the scandal.

Back then, for instance, school President Rodney Erickson said Paterno was welcome to football games just like any other member of the public.

Paterno won two national championships and a Division I record 409 victories to turn Penn State into a name-brand program. No major college football coach won as many games as Paterno.

Off the field, Paterno and his wife, Sue, donated millions back to the university, including the library.

"His and Sue's contributions are as much about ensuring student success as the many endowments and the library bearing the Paterno name," said Barbara Dewey, Penn State's dean of University Libraries.

Memorial service and funeral plans weren't ready yet Sunday night, though it appeared the family and the school were coordinating efforts.

Perhaps one last chance to say goodbye for a Penn State community that often took its cues on fall weekends from JoePa.

"No matter what people say, you can't take away what he did for Penn State and college football," former cornerback D'Anton Lynn said.

"I don't think there will ever be a college coach that will ever have that impact again."

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