Franco Harris Criticizes Penn State for Firing Joe Paterno, Unsure of Scandal’s Connection to Football


November 11, 2011

Former Penn State football great Franco Harris is likely to be in Happy Valley on Saturday, and he'll be there to lend support to his former coach, Joe Paterno.

Harris took issue with the longtime coach's dismissal this week in the wake of the ongoing Jerry Sandusky saga, and that's something that has left Harris upset and wanting answers.

"I feel that the board made a bad decision in letting Joe Paterno go," Harris told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "I'm very disappointed in their decision. I thought they showed no courage, not to back someone who really needed it at the time. They were saying the football program under Joe was at fault.

"They really wouldn't give a reason. They're linking the football program to the scandal and, possibly, the cover up. That's very disturbing to me. … I think there should be no connection to the football program, only in the case that it happened at the football building with an ex-coach. I'm still trying to find out who gave him access to the building, who signed that contract."

It sounds like Harris may not have read the part of the grand jury report, which states that even after his retirement Sandusky was allowed to continue "to use University facilities as per his retirement agreement. As a retired coach, Sandusky had unlimited access to the football facilities, including the locker rooms."

Regardless, the Hall of Fame running back is also taking exception to the Pennsylvania state police commissioner's claims that while Paterno didn't commit a crime, he did have a "moral obligation" to report Sandusky's alleged acts to authorities.

"When I heard that, it blew my mind," Harris said. "Why would they bring the moral into the legal? Now, everyone gets to interpret in their own way. That's what really bothers me: Joe did what was right for him to do. He forwarded the information to his superiors. That's the legal procedure at Penn State.

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