Paterno nominated for Presidential Medal of Freedom

August 10, 2010

University Park, Pa. — Penn State's Joe Paterno has been nominated for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. The nomination was made by U.S. Representative Glenn Thompson (R-PA, 5th), who sent President Barack Obama a letter with 17 additional signatures asking that Paterno be rewarded for his efforts serving his team, school and community.

The award recognizes individuals who have made "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."

"The Medal of Freedom has always stood for those who make a contribution to making our nation a better place to live," said Thompson, in a news release. "I believe Joe Paterno represents an ideal of what student and college athletics should be."

In his letter to Obama, Thompson stated, "Rarely has the award been made to someone who has personified sportsmanship on the field of play and academic achievement in the classroom. It is our hope, that this year the Medal of Freedom does just that by honoring Joe Paterno for his contribution to the coaching of football, his commitment to the academic integrity of the young men under his charge, and his deep dedication to education in general."

Additionally in the letter, Thompson listed off many of Paterno's accomplishments including his 394 wins, more than any coach in the history of Division I football. He also stated that Paterno's program has never been on probation and that his players stay in school and graduate. The letter also mentioned that Paterno supports the Pennsylvania Special Olympics, his fundraising and donations to libraries and need-based scholarships for Pennsylvanians.

President Harry S. Truman created the The Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1945. Among some of the recipients in 2009 were: Stephen Hawking, Sen. Edward Kennedy, Harvey Milk, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Sidney Poitier, Mary Robinson and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Notable sports figures who have earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom include: Hank Aaron, Muhammad Ali, Arthur Ashe, Paul "Bear" Bryant, Roberto Clemente, Joe DiMaggio, Billie Jean King, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Jackie Robinson and John Wooden.

In his 45th season as head coach of the Nittany Lions, Paterno owns a 394-129-3 (75.2) record. In his 61st year in Happy Valley, the Hall of Fame coach is the all-time victories leader among major college coaches and is six victories away from becoming just the third coach in NCAA history with 400 career wins. Paterno has led Penn State to two national championships (1982, '86), five unbeaten and untied seasons (1968, '69, '73, '86, '94) and is the all-time leader in bowl appearances (36) and wins (24-11-1).

Paterno has produced more than 350 NFL players, 77 first team All-Americans, 44 ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA Academic All-Americans, 15 National Football Foundation Hall of Fame Scholar Athletes and 18 NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship winners during his illustrious career. He has been selected the AFCA Coach of the Year an unprecedented five times, most recently in 2005. Paterno has been named Big Ten Dave McClain Coach of the Year three times, including 2008, when he led the Nittany Lions to an 11-2 mark, the Big Ten title and a berth in the Rose Bowl.

Joe and Sue Paterno have contributed more than $4 million to Penn State for building projects and to endow faculty positions and scholarships. In 2009, the Paternos announced a $1 million pledge for an expansion of the Mount Nittany Medical Center, Centre County's primary healthcare facility.

The No. 14 Nittany Lions are 51-13 (79.7) since the start of the 2005 season, tied for the nation's No. 7 winning percentage over that span. Penn State returns 36 letterwinners and 13 starters for this season, as well as 10 players that have starting experience. Penn State began practice last Thursday and opens the season Sept. 4 vs. Youngstown State (noon on Big Ten Network) in Beaver Stadium and then visits 2009 BCS national champion Alabama on Sept. 11 (7 p.m. ET on ESPN).

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Last Updated November 18, 2010