Wednesday, April 9, 2008

For the Glory...

If the truth be told, I have been a life long Penn State fan. Yes I love my Mountaineers, but PSU will always have a special place in my heart. Yes I am a polygamist of college football fandom. I love two teams, well maybe the Gold and Blue a little more, but not by much. My father was a PSU alum and made me what I am today. I still remember going to games at Beaver Stadium with my dad. We would wake up at some ungodly time in the morning and make the five hour trek from our home in West Virginia for games. I dreamed of playing middle linebacker for Joe Pa, but speed, height and general lack of athletic ability quickly dashed this dream. So it was off to WVU for me and as they say, the rest is history.

372–125–3, 4 Undefeated Seasons, 2 National Titles, 2 Big Ten Titles, 1 Heisman Trophy Winner and an ice cream flavor named after him; these are the career records of one, Joseph Vincent Paterno, head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions. The records speak for themselves. His impact on the game is undeniable and the respect Paterno, has earned is unmatched. Now comes the hardest decision in all of Joe's long career. Many are asking, if the time has come, to hang up the black cleats? I decided to take a look at the last ten years of Joe's long career. Here is what I found.

Year Overall Big 10 League Bowl
1997 Penn State 9–3 6–2 T–2nd L 6–21 Citrus
1998 Penn State 9–3 5–3 5th W 26–14 Outback
1999 Penn State 10–3 5–3 T–4th W 24–0 Alamo
2000 Penn State 5–7 4–4 T–6th
2001 Penn State 5–6 4–4 T–4th
2002 Penn State 9–4 5–3 4th L 9–13 Capital One
2003 Penn State 3–9 1–7 T–9th
2004 Penn State 4–7 2–6 9th
2005 Penn State 11–1 7–1 T–1st W 26–23 Orange
2006 Penn State 9–4 5–3 T–4th W 20–10 Outback
2007 Penn State 9–4 4–4 T–5th W 24-17 Alamo

The numbers weren't great, but they weren't as bad as many have stated. The rules have changed. During Penn State's great years of the 1970's and 1980's there were no scholarship limits. In a talent rich state like Pennsylvania, Joe was able to bring in pretty much whomever he wanted. Now a school can only have 85 kids on scholarship. A former Don Nehlen assistant at WVU stated that in the early eighties whenever they went head to head with Penn State on a recruit, they lost. The kid would always pick PSU. The record from 1977 to 1987 bears this out.

1977 Penn State 11–1–0 W 42–30 Fiesta
1978 Penn State 11–1–0 L 7–14 Sugar
1979 Penn State 8–4–0 W 9–6 Liberty
1980 Penn State 10–2–0 W 31–19 Fiesta
1981 Penn State 10–2–0 W 26–10 Fiesta
1982 Penn State 11–1–0 W 27–23 Sugar*
1983 Penn State 8–4–1 W 13–10 Aloha
1984 Penn State 6–5–0
1985 Penn State 11–1–0 L 10–25 Orange
1986 Penn State 12–0–0 W 14–10 Fiesta*
1987 Penn State 8–4–0 L 10–35 Citrus
*Denotes National Title

As well the talent rich area of Western Pennsylvania is not what it once was. Factories have shut down. People have moved to the sunshine states and other places. The talent pool is not what it once was. The demographics have changed, but Paterno has not.

This is my cause for concern, with the change in rules and now technology, the times have changed. I'm fearful that this is Joe's Waterloo. In an article recently, it was stated that Joe only made one recruiting trip last year. I doubt he has spent any time on the recruiting websites that seem to be everywhere. The days of living by your name as a program are numbered. You need to be out there. I'm not sure if Joe can do that anymore. It was also brought up that he works from home more. Have you ever noticed that Joe does not wear a headset on the sidelines? So it seems that Joe may be the figurehead now. That is fine as long as you have competent coaches underneath you. Joe has that.

Where do we go from here? I'm not ready to ask Joe to step aside. He has earned the right to go out how he wants. I think for the good of the program, however, a succession plan needs to be put in place. It has worked at Wisconsin. Purdue and Kentucky just recently did the same. Recruiting is a dirty game and recruiters will use the uncertainty at Penn State to their advantage. All I'm asking is that Joe does the right thing like he always has for the glory of old state...

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