Question: How do you tell a man who is second among all NCAA coaches in wins, has 56 years of coaching experience and was elected into the College Football Hall of Fame that it’s time to call it a career?
Answer: You don’t. He can retire whenever the hell he wants to.
In his 56th year at Penn State University, head coach Joe Paterno has won two National Championships (1982 and ’86) and has led the Nittany Lions to five undefeated seasons (’68, ’69, ’73, ’86 and ’94). He has also won two Big Ten titles (’94 and ’05) and has the NCAA Division 1-A record for bowl appearances (33) and bowl wins (22).
Many joke that Paterno has the fastest 40-yard dash time of any coach in the NCAA after he sprinted down official Dick Honig following a blown call in a 2002 contest. No official time has been set for the old man, but he made it clear to referees everywhere that they can’t run away from the likes of “JoePa.”
Paterno is everything that’s right about college football from a coaching perspective. Forget for a second all that he’s accomplished. Forget the 350-plus wins (second to only Florida State’s Bobby Bowden), the 2005 AP Coach of the Year award, and the 1986 Sportsman of the Year honor he received from Sports Illustrated.
All of that is great – fantastic actually. But what Paterno does for his athletes in regard to academics should rate second to none on his long accomplishment list.
In the 1970s, Paterno started what was known as the “Grand Experiment.” Since then, Paterno has required that all of his players excel in academics as well as football. Through the years, his Penn State Nittany Lions have consistently had above-average graduation rates that are often among the top 10 in Division 1-A.The former English major stresses that none of his students use double negatives or incorrect grammar such as: “we played good.”
In addition, he and his wife Sue have donated more than $4 million to expand Pattee Library on Penn State’s campus, and have helped raised another $13.5 million in private donations for its construction.
At the start of the 20th century, sports pundits everywhere started discussing how Paterno should hang it up. They said the old man had had enough and should leave his legacy on somewhat of a high note.
While many should marvel at what Paterno has done for the Nittany Lions on the field – what he has done for his players off the gridiron will take them much farther in life than football ever will.
You can’t tell a man like Joe Paterno that it’s time to hang it up or tell him to call it a career. He’ll leave when he’s good and damn ready to leave. And when he does, his legacy at Penn State will be intact forever.
JoePa on the Web
PSU Sports: Joe Paterno:
Meet Penn State head coach Joe Paterno.
Penn State’s Official Athletics Page: Joe Paterno
In-depth bio on the Nittany Lions’ Hall of Fame coach.
News and Commentary
Paterno’s legendary career back on track
When you win, they love you. USA Today.com discusses how Joe Paterno’s career is “back” after a great 2005 season.
Beyond the record
ESPN.com columnist Bill Curry discusses why Joe Paterno is college football.
Courtroom’s loss is college football’s gain
Joe Paterno was close to becoming a lawyer. Luckily for Penn State, he decided to be a football coach.
‘Joe Pa’s’ Impact Goes Beyond Football
Modesty is just one of Joe Paterno’s great traits.
What if Michigan had hired Joe and not Bo?
Joe Paterno a Wolverine? It could have happened if Paterno didn’t turn down Michigan a few hundred decades ago.
Paterno says no apology needed
Joe Paterno makes no apologies for grabbing the shirt of official Dick Honig after he felt the ref made two bad calls in a Penn State loss to Iowa in 2002.
Paterno breaks Bryant’s record
Records are meant to be broken – like Paul “Bear” Bryant’s mark for Division 1-A wins as a head coach.
When it’s time to go
Many sports pundits felt that Joe Paterno should have hung it up in 2001 even though he hadn’t yet broken Bear Bryant’s Division 1-A record for wins as a head coach.
Joe must go? Paterno can stay forever
One writer in 2001 who actually felt that it wasn’t time for Joe Paterno to call it a career.
“Believe deep down in your heart that you're destined to do great things.”
“Besides pride, loyalty, discipline, heart, and mind, confidence is the key to all the locks.”
“Losing a game is heartbreaking. Losing your sense of excellence or worth is a tragedy.”
“Success without honor is an unseasoned dish; it will satisfy your hunger, but it won't taste good.”
“The will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital.”
“When a team outgrows individual performance and learns team confidence, excellency becomes a reality.”
“You have to perform at a consistently higher level than others. That's the mark of a true professional.”
“You need to play with supreme confidence, or else you'll lose again, and then losing becomes a habit.”