Poll: 46% would name stadium after Paterno

and that of his wife, Sue, already adorn several buildings. University officials are mulling ways to commemorate his legacy.
and that of his wife, Sue, already adorn several buildings. University officials are mulling ways to commemorate his legacy. (Joe Paterno's name,)
Posted: March 18, 2012

Nearly half of the state's voters support renaming Pennsylvania State University's football stadium to honor longtime coach Joe Paterno, according to a poll released Friday.

The Quinnipiac University survey found 46 percent of respondents favored changing Beaver Stadium's name, while 40 percent said they were opposed. Thirteen percent said they did not have an opinion or had not made up their minds.

The survey included responses from nearly 1,300 registered voters polled during six days earlier this month. Its margin of error was reported at 2.8 percentage points.

The numbers show that support for Paterno - who died in January, two months after he was fired after a four-decade career leading the team - remains strong among college football fans, Penn State students, and alumni. But for some, his image was forever tarnished by his handling of child-sex-abuse allegations involving his former assistant, Jerry Sandusky.

"There is lingering respect for Joe Paterno," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of Quinnipiac's polling institute. "One has to wonder if the Sandusky scandal had never happened whether support for renaming the stadium would have approached 100 percent."

A sector of Penn State students and alumni has pushed for years to rename the stadium after Paterno. But calls for the tribute in the coach's honor rose after his death from lung cancer and the circumstances that ended his coaching career.

It was originally named for Gov. James Beaver, who served on the school's board of trustees in the late 19th century. A Civil War veteran, Beaver lost his right leg while commanding Union troops at the Battle of Ream's Station.

University officials have said they are still mulling options for a way to commemorate Paterno's legacy. His name and that of his wife, Sue, already adorn several campus buildings they helped to build, including the library and a spiritual center.

Friday's poll comes four days after Penn State's board issued yet another statement explaining its decision to fire Paterno in November along with university President Graham B. Spanier.

Despite concerted attempts earlier this year to mend hurt feelings through public appearances and media campaigns, trustees continue to receive hate mail, death threats, and criticism for their vote.

Paterno and Spanier, the board said in its report Monday, exhibited a "failure of leadership" when they neglected to notify outside authorities in 2002 of allegations that Sandusky had been seen molesting a boy in a football locker room. Both Paterno and Spanier said they were not aware of the full extent of the accusation at the time.

Sandusky, 68, has denied charges he sexually assaulted 10 boys during a 15-year period. He is set to take his case before a jury in May.

Contact Jeremy Roebuck

at 267-564-5218 or jroebuck@phillynews.com.

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