Franco Harris defends former coach Joe Paterno

Penn State Franco Harris (34) walks off field with coach Joe Paterno after a game against Syracuse, on Oct. 16, 1971. Ex-Penn State coach Joe Paterno dead at 85
Getty Images/Lane Stewart
Franco Harris and Joe Paterno
Penn State's Franco Harris (34) walks off field with coach Joe Paterno after game against Syracuse, on Oct. 16, 1971.
Getty Images/Lane Stewart

Hall of Fame running back and former Penn State star Franco Harris says Joe Paterno should not have been fired in the wake of the child sex-abuse scandal engulfing the university.

Speaking to MSNBC on Thursday, Harris said that he's "upset" by Paterno's ouster and that the legendary coach did the right thing by reporting what he knew about Jerry Sandusky's alleged abuse to his superiors.

When asked why Paterno didn't alert the police, Harris defended his coach, saying the alleged abuse by Sandusky was "a university matter" and "no longer a football matter for Joe."

"You people can say 'Listen, yeah, everybody should do this,' but... I would say 95 percent of people would go through superiors thinking that your superiors who are competent would do their job and go to police," Harris said.

Complete coverage: The Penn State Scandal
Paterno's supporters run amok over firing

Harris, who was an honorary board member of Jerry Sandusky's Second Mile charity, said he was disappointed about the revelations of sex abuse given how beneficial the program was to so many children.

He said the details of the crimes "makes you sick in your stomach."

"I'm defending Joe Paterno, not Jerry Sandusky," Harris said. "I was defending the Second Mile program, that it's a great program and unfortunately, we have the founder take advantage of that situation. I am supporting Joe Paterno and I wish the board would have supported Joe Paterno."

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for