TODAY   |  January 24, 2012

Paterno son: Scandal didn’t tarnish dad’s legacy

Jay Paterno, a son of legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, talks to TODAY’s Matt Lauer about his father’s life, career and how the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal affected his legacy.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> a public viewing will be held this afternoon for joe paterno ahead of a private funeral on wednesday. the legendary penn state football coach died at the age of 85 on sunday, less than three months after being diagnosed with lung cancer . we are joined now by his son jay paterno. good morning. let me start by expressing my condolences to you and your family.

>> thank you, matt. good morning to you, too.

>> how's everybody doing?

>> well, it's been a little bit of an up and down ride since sunday -- really since friday when it looked like joe was going to pass. i think our family is very, very strong. we have leaned on each other and had support from so many people, students, alums, notes and cards from everywhere. it helped sustain us .

>> i want to ask about the stress and strain your dad was under during the last couple of months. obviously he was let go as the head coach of penn state in the wake of the jerry sandusky scandal. a lot of critics felt your dad should have done much more when he learned information about mr. sandusky. what toll did it take on him and what toll has it taken on your family?

>> well, i think the big thing with my dad is through the last couple months you really got to see his true character in terms of even with all the things that were happening to him there was never a situation where he sat around and felt bad for himself. he was very positive with us about the direction he wanted the rest of his life to go and how he wanted to continue to build penn state and also to make sure justice was done for the victims involved. so that really didn't take much of a toll on him. he's a strong individual and he's passed that on to us. we try to live the same way we he did.

>> i read a quote of his and i wonder if this shed light on the last couple of months. one of his great quotes is losing a game is heartbreaking, losing your sense of excellence or worth is a tragedy. do you think in the wake of what happened over the last couple of months he lost a little of his sense of excellence?

>> absolutely not. one of the things joe has always told us is there is a difference between success and excellence. success is how others perceive you. excellence is something very personal. it is a standard you uphold. throughout his life he's done what he believed was right given the facts he had in front of him at the time. he did what he thought was right. i don't think there is a question in his mind he didn't lose a sense of excellence. obviously that's something he held very dear.

>> people now debate his legacy. your dad had 17 grandchildren. i think the youngest is a young girl , just about 2 1/2 years old.

>> yeah.

>> when she starts to learn about your dad, about joe paterno what do you want her to know about him?

>> one of the great things about my dad has been his integrity, loyalty, honesty and his fairness. i hope in his life when the youngest grandchild gets old enough to understand his career as a coach or mentor, so much more than winning games. i hope she understands that. i hope my children get to understand that he was -- this was an incomparable life, a life that he really lived up to the values he espoused.

>> jay paterno, my condolences to you and your family. thanks for joining me this morning.

>> thanks, matt.

>> we're back in a moment. this is "today" on nbc.