NCAA, Sports

Phil Knight’s Impassioned Speech Given At Joe Paterno’s Memorial

Nike’s chairman and CEO Phil Knight gave a pretty impassioned speech at Joe Paterno’s memorial service in which he says he needs a new hero now that Joe Paterno is gone.   Below is a clip of his speech from “A Memorial For Joe” at Penn State’s Bryce Jordan Center.

Commenting on the recent allegations at Penn State regarding Jerry Sandusky:

“it turns out (Paterno) gave full disclosure to his superiors, information that went up the chains to the head of the campus police and the president of the school. The matter was in the hands of a world-class university, and by a president with an outstanding national reputation.”

“…this much is clear to me. If there is a villain in this tragedy, it lies in that investigation and not in Joe Paterno.”

His comments brought the crowd of 12,000 to its feet.

Video: Nike’s Knight rips PSU Trustees

Here is the transcript courtesy of Deadspin:

I’m phil knight. I’m chairman of nike.

[ applause ]

Two months ago in cupertino, california, they had a memorial service for Steve Jobs. Tim Cook was asked to give one of the eulogies and tim cook loved steve jobs. the week after the event, i called tim cook. i said how in the world did you get through that? he said, it was one of the hardest things i ever had to do and i have no idea. i’m about to find out. i have worked at nike and its predecessor company for 48 years. some might call me a short timer.

[ applause ]

in those 48 years, i have never had a promotion. but it had its other benefits. it is how i met joe paterno. 33 years ago we started a college football coaches trip where coaches and their wives went with company people to a resort for five days to get to know each other, to exchange ideas, and maybe just let down a little bit where there was no media and there was no donors. it was there that i met joe. a whole lot of hall of fame coaches have gone through those trips over those 33 years including bill walsh, jimmie johnson, bobby bowden, mac brown, urban meyer, barry switzer, pete carroll, and hundreds of others and the one coach they deferred to the most was joe paterno. a lot of serious talk goes on there but in the letdown periods sometimes it gets a little goofy. one year we had a skit for nebraska coach tom osbourne and joe paterno was a swaying palm tree. one of the great highlights 15 years ago when rick, the coach at colorado at the time, rick played the guitar on sunday evenings at the lounge in the holiday inn in boulder. i was skilled. he was playing the guitar on the stage and he asked joe to come up and do a duet of “wild thing.” joe didn’t hesitate. he jumped up on the stage and while not the most artistic performance ever, it was loud and enthusiastic.

[ applause ]

at its conclusion, the place exploded into a standing ovation and it became a tradition for every year. when rick went to baltimore, gary patterson of texas christian could also play the guitar so “wild thing” became a tradition for all 15 of the last 15 years. 21 days from now in hawaii, there will be enormous void on talent night. i am a man who has always needed heros. it started when i was a boy and i never outgrew it. it has, i’m sure, something to do with how i decided to make my living. a decade and a half ago an “esquire” magazine reporter asked the question, who is your hero? my answer was simple. my college track coach and partner, bill bowerman. he had won four national championships, coached more sub four minute milers than anyone when he retired. he incesisted he was not a trac coach. he was a professor of competitive response. one year at the university of oregon the only group that had a higher grade point average than the track team was a fraternity. he said do right and fear no man. when he died on christmas eve in 1999, i asked myself what do i do for a hero now? two months later on the nike trip, the answer showed itself across the table wearing a thick set of eyeglasses. i said i’m not asking your permission, i’m just telling you, i need someone to look up to. you’re my new hero. his response was typical. he threw that left hand up and said ah, shaw. in the 12 years since through four losing seasons, big bowl wins, 12 win seasons, through all-americas, through players with criminal charges, with four-point students and players dismissed from the team for discipline, never once did he let me down. not one time.

[ applause ]

conventional wisdom dictates that i would phrase it a different way. it would say in 11 of those 12 years he never let them down and those years outweighed this last year but nobody ever accused me of wisdom of any kind let alone conventional. in the year in question he gave full disclosure to his superiors up the chain to head of campus police and president of the school. the matter was in the hands of a world class university and by a president with an outstanding national reputation. whatever the details of the investigation are, this much is clear to me. there was a villain in this tragedy it lies in that investigation, not in joe paterno’s response to it.

[ applause ]

and yet, for his actions, he was ex-core ated by the media and fired over the telephone by his university. yet in all his subsequent appearances in the press, on tv, interacting with students, conversing with hospital personnel, giving interviews, he never complained, he never lashed out. every word, every bit of body language conveyed a single message. we are penn state.

[ applause ]

so i do not follow conventional wisdom. joe is my hero. every day for 12 of the last 12 years. but it does lead me to this question. who is the real trustee at penn state university?

[ applause ]

in periods of stress and grief, you say things that surprise you. when i came back from mass on sunday, penny said, heather called. joe has passed. the first words out of my mouth, way out of sequence and typically self-centered, through the tears i asked, who is going to be my hero now? it’s a question everyone in this arena should ask and i do not have an answer for you, but i can tell you this much, that old hero set a standard that will live forever. thank you.

via FOX Sports

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