Lesson from Joe Paterno: Putting names on buildings a risk

6:32 PM, Jul 13, 2012   |    comments
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ST. PETERSBURG, Florida - Joe Paterno's name has already been removed from a building and a trophy, something that once seemed unimaginable.

The debate on campus and around the country now is whether everything with his name on it should be removed.

Some are calling for that to happen as soon as possible.

For a number of fans, including those living in Tampa Bay, the coach's legacy is the hardest thing to let go.

"I would still say no," said lifelong Penn State fan Shawn Miller, when asked if Paterno's statue on campus should come down.

His name is on a library and a mural of the coach with a halo over his head remains.

Nike has already removed Paterno's name from its child development center.

"Don't ever let them name a building after you while you are alive. You can always be indicted," said USF-St. Pete history professor Gary Mormino.

He's says it's always a risk for agencies to put a name on a building.

On the USF main campus, at least six buildings are named after people who are still alive.

A number of elementary schools in the area carry the names of historical figures.

"Heroes from one generation are not heroic in the next generation because of new sensitivities and sensibilities," Mormino said.

He points to Hernando de Soto, who has two Florida counties named after him, as an example.

"Today de Soto is regarded as kind of a 16th century Hitler," he explained.

Mormino cautions, though, rushing to remove Paterno from everything could end up a mistake.

"Who knows in 10 years whether new documents will surface," he said.

The same concern applies to naming rights on stadiums.

For instance what if Raymond James or Tropicana became the next Enron or J.P. Morgan?

It's another risk in attaching a name to a building.

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