Joe Paterno memorial a chance to defend coach

Joe Paterno memorial service
Sue Paterno, wife of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, enters a memorial service, her son Scott Paterno seen on left, at Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center in State College, Pa. Thursday Jan. 26, 2012 . A capacity crowd of more than 12,000 packed the arena for one more tribute to Paterno, the Hall of Fame football coach who died Sunday from lung cancer.
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Thousands gathered at Penn State University on Thursday to say a final goodbye to former coach Joe Paterno. The memorial service was a tribute to a beloved coach -- and a chance to defend his legacy.

Nike founder defends Paterno response to scandal
Special Section: The Penn State Scandal
Penn State says last goodbye to Joe Paterno

Coach, educator, devoted family man - and hero wronged. That's how former Penn State head coach Paterno was remembered yesterday at a public memorial on the university's campus.

His son, Jay, addressed the crowd of 12,000 students, alumni, and fans who packed the school's basketball arena. He said, "(My father) told me he wanted to use his remaining time on earth to see Penn State thrive. He never spoke ill and never wanted anyone to feel badly for him."

Paterno's death at 85 came less than three months after his stunning dismissal as head coach.

The child sex abuse charges against his retired assistant Jerry Sandusky ended his career -- and may have tarnished his decades-long legacy.

Nike chairman Phil Knight brought the crowd to its feet for nearly a minute when he called Paterno his hero and said the coach was treated unfairly.

"Whatever the details of the investigation are," he said, "this much is clear to me: there is a villain in this tragedy, and it lies in that investigation, not in Joe Paterno's response to it."

Former players spoke about the impact Paterno had on their lives. Current pro bowl player Michael Robinson talked about the promises Paterno made him -- not money or a car, as other schools did.

"He didn't even promise me that I would always play quarterback," Robinson said. "But there were some things he did promise. He promised that my education would be second to none. He promised me that I'd play in front of the best fans in college football.

And Thursday those fans said a final goodbye. Jay Paterno said at the service, "Dad you won. You did all you could do. You've done enough. We all love you. You won, you can go home now."

Watch the video above for Ben Tracy's report.