HBO's 'Paterno' Spotlights A Woman In The Eye Of The Penn State Scandal


HBO's upcoming biopic, Paterno, focuses on the late Penn State University coach (played by Al Pacino) who allegedly witnessed Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky sexually abusing a 10-year-old boy. Kathy Baker takes on the role of Joe Paterno’s wife, Sue, who served as a mother figure to Penn State's players. This film focuses on how the Sandusky scandal affected the Paterno family, including Sue, who fiercely supported her husband as he faced termination from his position as coach. Years after Paterno’s firing and his death, Sue Paterno in 2018 is still fighting to maintain her late husband’s legacy.

Sue may not have been a coach, but she had a big role in the team. She tutored players, counseled parents, and often offered advice to her husband. In an interview with Newsday, Joe Paterno said, “I think people don’t realize how much she’s done for this place. I’ve said many times that they won’t have any 
problems replacing me, but if they can find a coach’s wife like Sue, they’ll hit the jackpot.”

The New York Times reports that in 2015, Sue wrote an email to the Penn State letterman claiming the university made the Sandusky situation worse by blaming Paterno instead of looking into the report filed by FBI director Louis Freeh. In the email, Sue wrote, “I write to you now to let you know that we have not given up on setting the record straight — and we never will.”

Two years prior, Sue made headlines when she and the rest of the Paterno family sued the NCAA for allegedly “improperly forcing Penn State to enter into the consent decree,” according to SB Nation. She retracted the lawsuit in 2017, saying that the family had achieved what they wanted. “Our goal has always been to uncover and make transparent the full truth. We have done all we can in this litigation to achieve that end and the furtherance of it beyond this point will not yield anything new, which is why I have decided to end my litigation with the NCAA,” Sue said in the statement.

The NCAA’s chief legal officer Donald Remy responded, saying that wasn’t quite what happened. “The NCAA’s implication that the litigation was ceased out of a fear of discovery being revealed is absurd on its face. At every stage of this litigation we have sought to make a complete record available. As recently as three weeks ago, the NCAA successfully kept the evidence in this matter under seal,” said Remy. In a lengthy reply to the NCAA, Sue claimed that the family “does not oppose the complete release of the discovery in this case, and support any effort for that record to be made public in its entirety.”

In the time since, Sue has remained involved within Penn State. Last year, She and her son Jay were announced to be in the running for a seat on Penn State's Board of Trustees. Sue decided to wait off, releasing a statement via Penn State’s student-run news site Onward State that said, “I have a second rotator cuff surgery soon that will take me out of action for a period of time and Penn State, more than ever, needs committed board members who can be engaged in the challenges we face, challenges such as helping ensure students can graduate in four years and providing a meaningful, well rounded educational environment.”

Sue also said she’d consider it in 2018, but as of now, she hasn't formally announced being in the running. Last year, her son Jay was selected to join the current Board of Trustees. There's still a chance that Sue will join him soon, staying active in the public eye.