Add All-American tailback Charlie Pittman to the list of former Penn State players determined to restore the roar to Joe Paterno's name.
“He deserved better,” said Pittman, a three-year Nittany Lion letterman in the late 1960s. “He absolutely deserved better.”
Pittman was one of six former Nittany Lions who eulogized Paterno at “A Memorial For Joe” at the Bryce Jordan Center on campus. Paterno, a Hall of Fame coach, died last Sunday following a bout with lung cancer and was laid to rest Wednesday.
Paterno was fired by the school's board of trustees shortly after the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke in early November. He was diagnosed with lung cancer a week later.
“The way he was treated was inexcusable,” Pittman said following Thursday's ceremony.
Each of the six former players who spoke represented a decade in which Paterno was head coach at Penn State, starting with the 1960s. Pittman's final line was, “Rest in peace, coach, we'll take it from here.”
The packed arena erupted in applause.
“My last line was, 'We'll take it from here,' ” Pittman said. “And I meant that to mean that we're not going down without a fight. We're going to do something to get final closure in a positive way for Coach Paterno.”
Pittman declined interviews for six weeks after Paterno was fired. He said he wanted to hear the board's rationale for the dismissal. At the time Paterno was released, the board would only say it was in the best interests of the university.
Paterno was not charged with any crimes in connection to the Sandusky scandal and was lauded by the grand jury investigating the matter for giving truthful testimony.
It would take more than two months for board chairman Steve Garban and vice chairman John Surma to comment on the firing, and they did so via a prepared statement in which they said the board did not think Paterno could effectively perform his duties. Garban and Surma both stepped down from their positions (though remained with the board) two weeks ago.
“I didn't know all the facts,” Pittman said when talking about his initial silence. “It appeared to me that they had nothing for the longest time. I thought, they must have something we don't know about.
“But when it became clear they must not have had anything, I felt I needed to say something,” he added.
Franco Harris, Brandon Short and LaVar Arrington are among the other former Nittany Lions who have been extremely critical of Penn State's Board of Trustees for ousting Paterno. Nike founder Phil Knight also eulogized Paterno Thursday and was extremely critical of Penn State.