If there’s anyone with bigger problems in the world of college sports than Penn State’s Joe Paterno, then we’d like him or her to put their hand up. Paterno harks back to a day when the players weren’t trying to be Mr Jerry Rice, Mr Endorsement, or Mr No.1 Pick in the NFL Draft. The kids came to play the sports, they behaved, and that was it. Sure, the kids made the mistakes, but those were forgiveable.
But now, Paterno’s biggest problem is trying to get his 2008 team from self-imploding.
I feel sorry for Joe Paterno. The man is one of humanity’s sporting greats, helping to turn Penn State University from a small farming school into the 50,000 student monster in the middle of rural Pennsylvania. Sure, he’s had a library named after him – but the 110,000 size Beaver Stadium is really ‘The House That JoePa Built’. 30,000 students dressed in white losing their voices at several home games in the last few years would agree.
His Big Ten Championship – his only one in recent years – got him ESPN’s “Coach of The Year” status, but recent incidents over the last few years – which have seen over 60 of his players arrested for off-the-field incidents – has seen as reputation tarnished. While the 2007 offseason wasn’t great, the 2008 offseason has been a nightmare.
Chris Bell – recruited in 2006 as one of the best wide receivers coming out of that year’s – was thrown off the team for allegedly threatening one of his teammates with an eight inch blade. Andrew Quarless, one of Penn State’s star tight ends last year, was arrested for his second bout of underage drinking. Starting defensive tackle Chris Baker? Suspended for fighting in the PSU equivalent of the student union. Linebacker Knowledge Timmons? Suspended for the same thing.
And if you add to that a mass brawl during the summer of 2007 that seemed to involve every part of PSU football bar the coaching staff and running back Austin Scott’s arrest for alleged rape during the 2007 football season, it hasn’t been a great year for Penn State football. Hey, forget about the fact that Penn State lost to Illinois and Michigan State this year! Next year they’ll be happy if they beat Coastal Carolina!
Joe Paterno – himself the subject of much newspaper ridicule after a car prang last year – must have told his team 400 times about their off-the-field behaviour. Yet nothing has happened.
Something has to change, and it has to change fast. Paterno needs to gain the control of his team again, because it seems to be vanishing into thin air. Sure, you don’t do your own behavioural CV any good when you’re involved in a car prang that ends up with you yelling at a woman and her husband, but Joe Paterno IS the coach of Penn State football and needs to be respected that way.
Otherwise, Penn State Nation will once again feel angry, annoyed, and failed.