Knight's remarks in response to a sexual abuse scandal within the Penn State University football program highlighted a gathering to pay tribute to college football's winningest coach.
Paterno died last weekend at age 85, his final months clouded by the scandal involving former assistant Jerry Sandusky. Paterno was dismissed in the midst of last season on the grounds he had not done enough to bring about justice during a series of alleged abuses that began a decade ago.
Todd Blackledge and Jimmy Cefalo were among the players who spoke at the service, each one relating a specific memory of their years at Penn State.
It was Knight, however, who specifically addressed the scandal and who clearly touched a nerve among those who came to pay their respects.
"In the year in question it turns out he (Paterno) gave full disclosure to his superiors," Knight said. "The information went up the chain 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 a president with an outstanding national reputation.
"Whatever the details of the investigation are, this much is clear to me -- there is a villain in this tragedy and it lies in that investigation, not in Joe Paterno's response to it."
That remark brought about the standing ovation.
Paterno's son, Jay, later said his father left the world with a "clear conscience."