Spring practice is almost wrapped up. It's a time of spring games, shuffling depth charts, devastating injuries, and intriguing position battles. So what better time to talk about Joe's contract, our legal troubles, and fictional conference rivalries? I'll admit these are not my favorite questions to address, so my apologies to Nittany Whiteout if my tone sounds a little annoyed. It's nothing personal and BSD thanks him for putting this together. I'm just getting a little burnt out on talking about this stuff. Here is the list of usual suspects.
The announcement Wednesday is that contract talks are on hold until the conclusion of this season, and that Joe might not even need a contract to coach, how do you see this saga ending? Is this the final year for Joe Paterno?
The story ends when Joe says it's over. He and Spanier went head-to-head and Joe won. He played his trump card when he publicly stated he didn't need a contract to keep coaching. He was basically daring Spanier to fire him, and Spanier had neither the support or balls to do it. He had no choice but to give Joe a vote of confidence for the sake of the Penn State Football Empire.
All of that said, I'm not sure how long Joe is going to keep going. For months I've held the line that 2008 will be his last year. Now I'm not so sure. The old coot is just adamant in his insistence to coach another three or four years. But honestly I'm starting to believe Joe doesn't really know how long he wants to coach. I think more than anything he just wants to have one more big year where he wins the Big Ten and competes for a national championship. But who knows, if he does that and feels like he could come back and do it again next year he may elect to do that too. I think ultimately Joe is looking at it on a year-to-year basis. If he likes the look of the team next year he'll come back. But I don't think he wants to go through another three year rebuilding process. So in that sense I believe Graham Spanier when he says he will sit down with Joe and Curley at the end of every season to discuss the future of the program.
Joe will clearly not been on the sidelines in 10 years time. Whether he is awarded another extension or is forced out against his will, a new face will inevitably be on the sidelines for the Lions in the years to come. Which candidates would top the list when it comes to a coaching search? Should it be an in-house hire or should we start off with a blank slate?
To quote a phrase from Joe, I'm not trying to be a smart alec here, but I hate this question. Galen tried to corner me into naming a favorite candidate over a beer at a tailgate party last year. I'll tell you what I told him back then. I really don't think about it because it's something that hasn't happened yet and I have no control over it.
My hope is that they just conduct a national search to find the best guy. I used to be a big Tom Bradley fan and really hoped they give it to him. But I've backed off on that somewhat. I would like to see them bring in a fresh set of eyes that will do things a little differently. I'm worried that all Bradley has ever known was the Joe Paterno way of doing things. At the end of the day I hope we just land an innovative guy with a charismatic personality and a lot of integrity. If I get that I'll be happy.
It almost seems as if we find another athlete in trouble with the law each morning when we read the newspaper. What has gone wrong with the once pristine image of the Penn State program?
Ugh. Are we going to get to a football question here? I'm starting to understand how Joe feels in his press conferences.
What's gone wrong with the Penn State football program is technology. The internet age has completely changed the way we gather our sports information. In the old days when a football player got in trouble the police called Paterno who took them home and ran their asses off the next day. Nowadays when a player gets in trouble there is someone there with a cell phone to take a picture. Then they go home and fire up their laptop. In a matter of minutes they are telling a thousand people on the message boards about a fight they just witnessed or heard about. Or they are telling their facebook group of 3000 people they just heard in English class that player X was pulled over for DUI. The local sports reporters cruise these message boards and blogs on a daily basis looking for a scoop. They read this stuff and use their access to start asking questions. Next thing you know it's all in the papers. Then it's on the ESPN ticker. This is all stuff that didn't happen 20 years ago, but you're fooling yourself if you think football players never drank and got in fights back then.
After 14 years in the Big Ten, Penn has not dominated the conference in football as most presumed when we joined winning only 2 Big Ten titles in that span. In 1994, Joe Paterno's undefeated Nittany Lions were also backstabbed by its Big Ten brethren when most conference members voted for Nebraska instead of Penn State. Is the Big Ten the right home for Penn State? Or would Joe Paterno's dream of an all-eastern conference be a much more ideal conference for the Nittany Lions?
Would an all eastern conference of Penn State, Pitt, Syracuse, Boston College, Rutgers, Temple, West Virginia, and Maryland be a better fit for Penn State? Absolutely. Unfortunately Pitt, Syracuse, and Boston College wanted to stay in the Big East basketball league and gave us the finger. Now we're in the Big Ten playing in prime time on Saturday nights and the Big East is playing their biggest games on Thursday nights. I think that tells you everything you need to know. So looking at our situation now I think we've earned the right to give those schools the finger and let them think about what could have been. At this point I wouldn't give up our spot in the Big Ten for anything.
With the lack of our traditional rivals in the Big Ten conference, and our unwillingness to reschedule any of them in any consistent manner, which teams are emerging as Penn State's chief rivals in the Big Ten? (USC-Notre Dame proves that rivalries aren't all about geographic significance.)
You know, it's kind of pathetic how we do this to ourselves. We're like the pimple-faced Star Trek nerd that can't get a prom date. Will you go to the prom with me? Will you be my rival? Please hate me.
The sad fact is that the other teams of the Big Ten don't care about us. We can say Michigan and Ohio State are our biggest rivals, but neither of them feel the same way. Michigan has beaten us like 26 times in a row and Ohio State only loses to us when we are really really good and manage to get them at home. We're a nice feather in their caps when they beat us, but the fact is we're just another team on the schedule to them, and the same goes for every other team. If we left the conference tomorrow I don't think there would be any kind of remorse on their part.
Bonus Question from WFY: Are you going to the Blue-White Game?
Yes. We're a little slow in getting organized so I think it's going to be pretty low key.