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Paterno Again Suggested for Presidential Medal in Bipartisan Effort

on September 07, 2011 11:09 AM

U.S. Rep. Glenn "G.T." Thompson, R-Howard, and Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey joined with Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey on Wednesday to nominate Joe Paterno for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country's highest civilian honor, the lawmakers announced.

In a letter to President Barack Obama, the Pennsylvania lawmakers underscore the 84-year-old football coach's "substantial contributions to collegiate athletics, higher education and American society."

Thompson and 17 other legislators made a similar pitch to Obama just more than a year ago. The sitting president has the sole power to grant the medal.

"Coach Paterno's accomplishments on the football field are nothing short of legendary," the latest letter reads, noting his 402 career wins, five undefeated teams, two national championships and other achievements as Penn State football coach. Paterno is in his 46th season as head coach.

"While these numbers are unrivaled, Coach Paterno's contributions to society off the field are even more noteworthy," the letter continues. "His commitment to the success of student athletes under his guidance is abundantly clear. Under his tenure, Penn State's football team has had 16 Hall of Fame Scholar-Athletes, 47 Academic All-Americans and 18 NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship winners -- evidence of his dedication to helping his players excel in both athletic and academic endeavors."

Casey, Thompson and Toomey go on to emphasize Paterno's -- and his family's -- philanthropy and volunteer work, as well. They also note that "it is not unprecedented" for collegiate coaches to win the Presidential Medal of Freedom, as it's been granted to both Paul "Bear" Bryant and John Wooden.

The Medal of Freedom push first gained momentum in July and August 2010. At that point, Thompson sent to Obama a similar letter requesting the medal for the football coach. That letter was co-signed by 17 other lawmakers.

The medal has been awarded hundreds of times to people in a variety of fields. By definition, it recognizes recipients "for especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, or world peace, or cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."

StateCollege.com will post more information as it becomes available.

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