Joe Paterno: He Is Penn State

Joe Paterno: He Is Penn State

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Joe Paterno: He Is Penn State

The college football world has gone mad. Conferences are doing battle in courtrooms instead of on the football field. Teams are leaving their conferences and throwing tradition and loyalty out the window for a bigger paycheck. The Bowl Championship Series was supposed to end the confusion in the college football post season. It was supposed to crown a true champion. Instead, the B.C.S. has only brought more light to the fact that in college football it is all about money and TV contracts. Teams that have no right going to a major bowl game go because of who they are and, more importantly, who their fans are and how much money the fans are will to spend. Players are failing classes, stealing, doing drugs, breaking almost every law imaginable, and they are still suiting up to play on Saturday. In this new age of college football, there is a man who is as old school as having goal posts right on the goal line. He is short in stature, but he is larger than life. He has given millions of dollars back to his university, and he has put his heart and his soul into molding young me. Joe Paterno has become an icon of college football. In these modern times, however, his morals and his coaching style seem outdated. Now, in the twilight of his career, he has to battle a grueling Big Ten schedule, the media who made him a legend and who are now looking to make him into a fool, and even his once loyal fans who have turned their backs on him. Joe Paterno has his back against the wall; it seems everything is working against him. He could walk away now and forever be remembered as a great football coach, or he can keep running out of that tunnel and work on putting Penn State football back on the map. He can take back the title that is rightfully his, the greatest college football coach of all time. Joe Paterno should remain in charge of the Penn State football program. Along the way, he deserves every Penn State fans support, win or lose.

Joe Paterno has found a way to win in college football. More importantly, he has found a way to win and keep his morals and the morals of the University. Paterno could have retired two years ago, after he reached victory number 324.

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Paul Bear Bryant had 323 wins, and he held the all-time record for wins among major college football coaches. He held that record until a cold day at University Park, Pennsylvania in 2001.

The dull metal bleachers were freezing, but that was not the reason that 109,000 fans were not sitting on them. It was so cold that it was hard to breathe, but it was easy to cheer at the top of your lungs. Penn State had struggled the previous season, and they would finish this season with another losing record, but that didnt matter at the moment. Joe Paterno was seconds away from having more wins than any other Division I-A coach in the history of college football. Time ran out and Joe Paterno had finally passed the Bear. The stadium shook from the noise of the cheering fans. It was still light out, but the scoreboard illuminated the sky; it read 324. One hundred and nine thousand voices came together to chant two simple words, Joe Pa, Joe Pa, Joe Pa . The chant grew louder and louder. You could see Joe Paterno and his wife, Sue, on the big screen hugging each other. It was then Joe Paterno spoke. He thanked the fans and the University. What he said next was so simple and yet so complex. He finished his speech by saying, We are over 100,000 responded, Penn State! I felt a tear roll down my cheek. I looked around the stadium. I saw old men cheering for a man who was their long time hero, a man whom they watched win all 324 record breaking games. I saw the student section cheering on a man who was a worthy sports role-model. The student section looked like a big blue wave with their pom-poms going back and forth in unison with the Joe Pa chant. I saw children cheering happily, looking at a man they probably considered a superhero, or someone who reminded them of their grandfathers. I realized then how many people Joe Paterno has touched, and he probably never met half of them. Then I looked up to the beautiful fall sky in Pennsylvania; I knew my father was watching his hero from somewhere. That day 109,000 people cheered for Joe Paterno. Who knew that just two years later some of them would turn their backs on the man who was just able to move over 100,000 people with two simple words? They seemed to forget that just twenty some years earlier, he had his chance to turn his back on them.

Joe Paterno had been coach at Penn State for only seven years, and he already had two undefeated teams, and had played in four bowl games. It was the winter of 1972 and Joe Pa and his Nittany Lions were in New Orleans, getting ready for the Sugar Bowl. Joe asked his brother George to come for a walk with him one night while in New Orleans. Joe told George that a man named Billy Sullivan, from the New England patriots, had offered him a long-term contract for big money. Joe then asked his brother if he would be an assistant coach in New England with him. George took the offer. Joe went back to State College, Pennsylvania, to talk the decision over with his wife, Sue. Billy Sullivan told a reporter that Paterno was on his way to New England and Dick Young of the New York Daily News had the story already written. Sometime after that Joe called Mr. Sullivan and told him he had to turn down his million-dollar offer. Throughout his career Joe has been offered NFL jobs with the New England Patriots, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Cleveland Browns, and the New York Giants. Throughout his career Joe has seemed happy right where he is in Happy Valle. Joe didnt become a coach to make money, he became a coach to educate young men (Paterno 73-75). That is what separates Joe Paterno from any other coach in the game. He is not only interested in football or in advancing his own interests; he is interested in his players and the men they become. Anyone can win a college football game with the right players, but who can put those players on the field and in the classroom and make them succeed in both environments? Joe Paterno has proven he can do just that.

Joe Paterno found out early he had what it takes to be a good head football coach. In his third and fourth year at the helm, his team did not lose a single game. It was then that he decided he had a much bigger responsibility. He announced to the media that he was going to conduct the Grand Experiment. His idea was to not only make a good football player, but also a good student, and a good man. Joe continues to work at his Grand Experiment over thirty years later. His coaching record speaks for itself. He has two National Championships, five undefeated teams, and 239 all-time victories (second in Division I-A history). Love him or hate him, he is one of the best coaches ever. So what sets him apart? What makes Joe Paterno the greatest coach of all time? The answer to this question lies in what Joe Pa has done off the field.

Joe Paternos legacy isnt his won-lost record at Penn State. His legacy is himself. His impact on his players. His integrity. His instinct. His guts to do the right thing (Bynum 15). Steve Smear lost his father when he was a little boy. He grew up and became the only member of his family to go to college. Steve was also a defensive lineman for Joe Paterno. Steve got behind in school and started to struggle in his classes. Coach Paterno found out and called Steve into his office. Joe Paterno told Steve, I promised your mother that you would get an education. Dont disappoint her. Dont disappoint me. Straighten it out or youll never play here. Steve Smear did do better in school and became a co-captain of the football team (OBrian x-xi). Penn State is a better place for having Joe Paterno as a football coach. His football team continually has the highest graduation rate of any public institution in the country. You want something more concrete? Take a walk through Penn State Universitys Paterno Library. Joe and Sue Paterno poured millions into the library on campus at University Park. Today their kids can do research at one of the best college libraries in the nation.

Being a good person does not win football games. That is the bottom line. Just because Joe Paterno has had a legendary past, does not mean he will have a legendary future. Penn State football is struggling, and the end of Joe Paternos coaching career is not that far away. However, I still wonder why people are rushing him out of the door. Imagine for a moment your good-hearted father. Picture him, his intense eyes, his strong voice: you have looked up to him all of your life. Now picture him a few years from now. He is the same person, he is just a little weaker and a little bit more vulnerable. Picture him struggling to do the things he once loved. Picture him asking you for one last day at work, one last shot at putting a new tire on the family car. What do you tell him? Do you tell him he is too old, or do you tell him that you still have faith in him? What would you tell Joe Paterno if he said to you he wanted to coach for a few more seasons? If he told you he wanted to finish his job at Penn State the right way? Regardless of your answer, Joe Paterno is the greatest college coach. Correct that, Joe Paterno is the greatest coach of all time. He has done everything a coach is supposed to. He won, he inspired, he took the boys he had and turned them into successful men. To the media, to the people who post on and constantly bash Joe Paterno, this might not mean a whle lot, but I am behind Joe Paterno. He is a light of hope in the dark world of money-hungry college football. He is a living legend. Joe Paterno stands for more than wins and loses, he stands for hard work, discipline, and strong moral character. Let those who stand against him close their eyes and picture that day in Beaver Stadium. Let them hear the 109,000 voices yelling, Joe Pa! Joe Pa! Let them see the tears and the emotion of that day. Let them see my father cheering from heaven, and let them still stand against Joe Paterno. For only a true Penn State fan can reach down to the bottom of his or her heard and with enthusiasm finish Joe Paterno’s statement made on that cold day in 2001 and truly mean their response: We are!

Works Cited

Bynum, Mike. The Paterno Legacy. Birmingham, AL: Epic Sports, 1997.

Fitzgerald, Francis J. Greatest Moments in Penn State Football History. Louisville, KY: Adcraft, 1996.

O'Brien, Michael. No Ordinary Joe. Nashville, TN: Rutledge Hill Press, 1998.

Paterno, George. Joe Paterno the Coach from Byzantium.
Champaign, IL: Sports Publishing a division of Singamore Publishing, 1997.

Penn State: The Greatest Coaches. Producer Thomas H. Stipe.
State College, PA: Collegiate Sorts Partners, Ltd. and The Pennsylvania State University, 1995.
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