Joe Paterno Must Go (Even King Says So)

Big Red NetworkSenior Writer IJune 4, 2008

If you’ve been a Husker fan for 25 years or more, you’ve likely got little affinity for Penn State head coach Joe Paterno.

Sure, you may respect the job he’s done over the last 40+ years at PSU (going on 60 years if you count time spent as an assistant at the school), but there’s been enough pain dished out in the last quarter century to make him a guy an NU fan isn’t going to root for.

So it can hardly be called an unbiased opinion when a Husker fan suggests that at 81 years old Paterno is likely now more of a hindrance to his team than an asset. Still, Husker fans are hardly lonely voices in the wind.

Joe Pa’s age has been a lively debate topic nationally for nearly a decade. His 2005 squad won a share of the Big 10 and the Orange Bowl to finish third nationally, which would suggest that at least within the last few years he was still on his game.

But 2005 was the only season in the last 10 that the Nittany Lions managed to finish higher than fourth in the Big 10 and aside from that bowl, they haven’t been to a BCS bowl since 1996.

The bigger issue is the future. You recruit players for three to five years which means that Paterno would be 86 or 87 when redshirting members of the recruiting class of 2009 would be seniors.

Can recruits really believe that better days lie ahead for Paterno or his team? Will they expect that he can offer them the kind of energy and “reliability” as someone half his age? Even if his age is just a number, doesn’t he hurt this important “marketing” aspect of his program? What about assistants?

If they want to stay employed, don’t you want to work for someone you expect to have some staying power? That’s another marketplace where his age hurts. And is he really as able and involved at 81 as he was at 61 or even 71? Common sense tells us no.

Perhaps an ominous sign that the heat is increasing on Paterno to retire, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King wrote in his Monday Morning Quarterback blog (sort of a weekly brain dump of items too small to merit their own story) last week that Paterno is being selfish by not stepping aside.

Here’s a quote, “It’s not in the best interests of his team for an 81-year-old man showing increasing signs of frailty to be running a world-class college football team.”

If it were any other writer, you’d dismiss this as just another voice. But King practically defines the “East Coast Media Bias” that Midwesterners talk about so much. He’ll declare a cheeseburger joint or ice cream shop the greatest in the world because it happens to be one he visited in New Jersey.

After covering the New York Giants for so long, he wanted to put Phil Simms, Mark Bavaro, and Tiki Barber in the Hall of Fame—and keep Art Monk out. King’s rationale for keeping out one of four receivers named to the 1980’s All-Decade Team (Monk) as voted by the Hall of Fame selection committee?

The Giants (the one team he was covering) didn’t sound scared enough of Monk when he played. He says the campus his daughter chose is the most beautiful in the country (how many schools did she visit, like five?). The examples go on and on, but needless to say, this is not a guy known for distancing himself from his surroundings.

Which is why, living in spitting distance of State College and no doubt having been inundated with all of the love for JoePa that the area has provided over the years, King jumping ship is a real sign the Titanic is sinking.

King’s not the canary in the mine.  He’s more like the last man standing. This is the guy who just discovered “Family Guy” after six seasons (Hey Peter, there’s this show called “The Simpsons” you might want to check out too).

Which is why, it’s fair to say there’s almost no one left without Penn State allegiances that’s ready to declare Joe Pa the right man for the job. When even Peter “Jersey Guy” King turns on you, it’s over. Not to say that Paterno won’t continue coaching, but the number of people who support him in that decision will continue to dwindle to next to no one.