Phil Knight stood by his friend Joe Paterno as he delivered a eulogy at a public memorial for the former Penn State University coach on Thursday.
Paterno died of lung cancer on Jan. 22. He was 85.
The Nike co-founder and chairman recognized the sensitivities involved in praising Paterno, who was fired from his position on Nov. 9 after accusations surfaced that he failed to alert authorities when told of child sex abuse allegations against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Nevertheless, he held fast to his belief that Paterno acted responsibly.
“Never once did he let me down, not one time,” Knight said. “Conventional wisdom dictates that I would phrase it in a different way … but nobody ever accused me of wisdom of any kind, let alone conventional.”
Knight then went on to address the issues surrounding the dismissal of the once-beloved coach. “Whatever the details of the investigation are, this much is clear to me: if there is a villain in this tragedy, it lies in that investigation and not in Joe Paterno’s response to it,” he said, receiving a standing ovation among Paterno supporters.