Tag Archives: Joe Paterno

Joe Paterno was the head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions from 1966 – 2011. He won a record 409 games and 2 undisputed National Championships. He was the most instrumental person at Penn State in the second half of the 20th century.

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Do not forget why the NCAA had the leverage to drop sanctions on Penn State

I’m glad that Penn State’s sanctions are mostly gone and that the $60 million fine is staying in Pennsylvania. However, it must be noted that the failures of Penn State’s most powerful officials, including but not limited to Graham Spanier, Gary Schultz, Tim Curley and Joe Paterno, to hold Jerry Sandusky accountable for showering with a minor on a Friday night in the football building in 2001 is what gave the NCAA leverage to create the sanctions in the first place. That can not be forgotten. The fallout that those individuals have dealt with is trivial to what Sandusky’s victims endured. Pretending that among those officials there was not a custom of keeping things in house is naive. That’s why their removal was necessary, regardless of previous service. Had each of them resigned outright within 72 hours, I believe the damage to the university would have been less significant.

Some are still angry that Penn State did not protect Paterno. I am, as I have been since Nov. 2011, angered that Penn State did not protect the boy in the shower.

I am also angry with Centre County D.A. Ray Gricar, The Second Mile, Louis Freeh, former Pennsylvania Attorney General/current governor Tom Corbett, NCAA, Mark Emmert, the Board of Trustees past and present, Dottie Sandusky and of course Jerry Sandusky. Nobody in power acted correctly in this scandal and accountability for all is important.

I know Pennsylvanians will take care of Corbett in November. Now, Penn Staters let’s move on, elect some trustees who care about the entire university, especially the students who attend it, and not just idolatry and vengeance.

May no act of ours bring shame
To one heart that loves thy name,
May our lives but swell thy fame,
Dear old State, dear old State.

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R.I.P. Joe Paterno

I am only getting to my obituary for Joe Paterno now because I wasn’t sure what I could add to the thousands of tributes already out there. I’m going to try and fill in something that I think has been overlooked. That aspect was also a little hard to find online until late last week.

Paterno won 409 games, 2 undisputed national championships, had undefeated seasons in 4 different decades, won 3 Big Ten Championships, every bowl game that mattered and more than any one else for that matter. His on-field legacy is secure. His “Grand Experiment” of having football players who were students is unsurpassed in big time college football. Paterno’s football players graduated a rate higher than the Penn State population in recent years and probably over his entire tenure. The praise he gathered for that was well-earned.

An aspect of Paterno that I feel that may have been overlooked was his direct role in shaping the Pennsylvania State University. The fame that his successful football teams brought raise the profile of the university. Paterno would have been a memorable figure for that, particularly the the way he did it. However, Paterno did not settle for that and at the peak of his power and prestige, he decided that the Penn State could not settle for being #1 just in football. Following the 1982 National Championship, Paterno was invited to speak to the Board of Trustees. Instead of a pep talk, he outlined a vision for the university. Here is an excerpt from Paterno’s January 22, 1983 speech to the Board of Trustees, 29 years to the day before died (Google Doc):

So we do have a magic moment and we have a great opportunity, and I think we have got to start right now to put our energies together to make Penn State not only Number One, but I think we’ve got to start to put our energies together to make this a Number One institution by 1990. I don’t think that’s an unfounded or a way-out objective. I think we need some things. I talk to you now as a faculty member. I talk to you as somebody who has spent 33 years at Penn State, who has two daughters at Penn State, who probably will have three sons at Penn State, who has a wife that graduated from Penn State, who has two brother-in-laws that graduated from Penn State, and I talk to you as somebody I think who knows a little bit about what’s going on. Who has recruited against Michigan, Stanford, UCLA, who has recruited against Notre Dame, Princeton, Yale, and Harvard and who has had to identify some things that they have that are better than we have and has had to identify some of our problems. I talk to you as somebody that I think knows a little bit about what’s going on in the other guys, and I think a little bit about what’s going on here. We need chairs. We need money so that we can get some stars. We need scholarship money. We need scholarship money to get scholars who can be with the stars so that the stars will come in and have some people around that can stimulate them and they can be stimulated by the stars. We need a better library–better libraries would be a better way to put it–so that the stars and the scholars have the tools to realize their potential. We need an environment of dissent and freedom of speech and freedom to express new and controversial ideas.

Paterno was vice chair of the first “Campaign for Penn State” the raised $352 million from 1984-1990. He continued to raise money for Penn State for decades and with his wife, Sue, contributed over $4 million. He specifically raised money for the library which now bears his last name. The modern Penn State, a modern research institution with many nationally ranked colleges, schools and departments is his greatest legacy.

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Joe Posnanski also spoke with Joe Paterno in the final days

Paterno’s final days: no bitterness, just marveling at his fortunate lifeSports Illustrated

In the moments after Joe Paterno died, it became common for people to write and say that he died of a broken heart. He did not. Joe Paterno died of lung cancer and the complications it caused. He did not die a bitter or broken man.

Joe Posnanski spent the fall in State College preparing to write a book at Joe Paterno and Happy Valley. It was something that I looked forward to reading, even though I have read countless Paterno biographies. Posnanski is just such a good writer and I was sure he would come up with a great book that would provide additional illumination.

Paterno had said that he would not speak with Posnanski due to the commitments of running the program, but following the dark days that Jerry Sandusky brought to Penn State, Paterno had the time. Aware of his mortality facing lung cancer, Paterno changed his mind and spoke with Posnanski.

I am sure there will be more in Posnanski’s book, but this short article makes it pretty clear that the “died of broken heart” narrative is a false one. All of those books and all that I knew of Paterno suggested this would not be the case and this confirmed it. Cancer (especially diagnosed as late as Paterno’s was) and cancer treatments puts a tremendous toll on someone. I suspect the latter proved to be the specific cause of Paterno’s death.

I am still trying to piece together my thoughts on Paterno’s legacy and it may be a few days yet. I need to give the same consideration to that as I did my post-Sandusky posts that were critical of him. I stand by those, but they are not the whole story by a long shot.

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