Let's recount the crimes against humanity (or at least the Nittany Nation) that Joe Paterno has supposedly committed this season.
His team lost to Boston College. It lost at Nebraska. It lost to Minnesota. It only beat Kent State 32-10 and Temple by 13.
Penn State is 2-3, the winningest coach in college history is 76 and you can't walk into a breakfast joint from Altoona to Allentown without overhearing someone plotting to depose the legend.
Too old. Too stubborn. Too out of touch.
And we call coaches hypocrites?
You can't have it both ways. You can't blow a stack when Mike Price lets a hungry stripper spend the night, Dave Bliss defames a murdered player or Rick Neuheisel brazenly bets on basketball – and then say JoePa must go because he couldn't beat the Gophers.
You support, applaud and live with a guy who has done nothing but represent his school with class and conviction for 54 years. You don't stab him in the back and dream of bringing in the next slick young coach that supposedly can do it better.
Guess what: He can't and he won't.
Few have ever done it as well as Paterno. Not on the field, where his teams have won two national titles, enjoyed five perfect seasons and finished in the top 10 a ridiculous 20 times.
And not off of it, where he became the dignified, respectable public face of Pennsylvania State University, never ran into major NCAA trouble and coached 27 Academic All-Americans, including one (Joe Iorio, now of the Colts) just last year.
That's the same year Penn State went 9-3 in the regular season, never lost by more than a touchdown and played on New Year's Day for the 20th time under Paterno.
Fire JoePa? Run him out?
This is the root of the problem in college athletics. Boosters claim they want to win right, but in truth they just want to win.
No one seems to remember that Vince Lombardi coached in the NFL, not the NCAA. On campus winning can't be everything. Winning can't be the only thing.
Dump Paterno and what does it tell every other coach in the nation?
If JoePa can get this kind of heat for starting 2-3, if all those diplomas he helped deliver to dilapidated neighborhoods, if all those boys he turned into men, if all that doing-it-the-right-way means nothing in State College, then what will they do to me?
Most college coaches are, deep down, good people who would like to follow the rules. But once the cheating and carousing starts, once the ante gets upped, they fight for survival.
You cut the corners because it delivers victories because if you can't deliver victories, well, just look at Joe Paterno.
There is no question that this is not Paterno's best team. This is not 1982 or 1986. This isn't even 1999.
But Penn State isn't getting blown out, like Nebraska did a year ago. It isn't facing a two- or three-win season, like Notre Dame is. It isn't losing to MAC teams, like everyone else.
And most of all it isn't Alabama, Arkansas, Cal, Colorado, Kentucky, Marshall, Maryland or Wisconsin, all of whom are on probation.
According to the NCAA, since 1966, Paterno's first season as head coach, Division I football programs have been found guilty of committing major infractions (the big stuff) 130 times.
That list includes 13 violations in the Big Ten. It includes Notre Dame, twice. It includes Florida State, twice. It includes current No. 1 Oklahoma three times.
It doesn't include Penn State once. That isn't to say Paterno is perfect or that he hasn't occasionally gambled on the wrong recruit. But 38 seasons and not a single, solitary letter of inquiry tells you about the principles of the program.
"The purpose of college football is to serve education, not the other way around," says Paterno. "Ten years from now I want [my players] to look back on college as a wonderful time of expanding themselves – not just four years of playing football."
When the 10-win seasons were rolling in, Penn State fans were quick to embrace that philosophy, proudly asserting that their school wasn't just some football factory playing fast and loose with the rules.
They believed that because of Joe Paterno they were better.
At 2-3, too many of them seem to have forgotten they still are.
- Joe Paterno
- Penn State