phil knight
Nike founder and CEO Phil Knight
The friends, family members and colleagues who spoke at Joe Paterno's memorial service faced a unique, unenviable challenge: To appropriately pay tribute to the legendary Penn State coach in the wake of the scandal that ended his career shortly before he died from lung cancer at the age of 85.

Thankfully, Nike founder and CEO Phil Knight was there to lead the way. His defense of Paterno was more than heartfelt, beyond eloquent.

His words made a valid case for, if not Paterno's innocence, his genuinely conflicted state:

"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."

Knight continued:

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

More from The Stir: Joe Paterno's Legacy Should Reflect Both His Victories & Mistakes

Of course Paterno could have done more to help Jerry Sandusky's victims. But Joe Paterno wasn't the only authority figure at Penn State who could have done more. President Graham Spanier was also fired as a result of the scandal, but Spanier is hardly the household name Paterno was. And so the majority of the blame fell to the disgraced coach.

Judging by the standing ovation Knight received, there were -- and are -- many who feel Paterno shouldered more than his fair share of the guilt. Most of all Paterno's son, Jay, who shared the last words he whispered to his dying father:

"Dad, you won. You did all you could do. You've done enough. We all love you. We won. You can go home now."

Have your feelings about Joe Paterno changed since his death?

Image via msnbc

Breaking sports news video. MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL highlights and more.