Let me start by saying that Larry Johnson Sr owes Penn State nothing. He’s given them 18+ years of excellent service and held the team together when their coach jumped ship. Penn State got everything they asked from LJ and more. I also fully understand in the modern day of college football coaching is more of a business than anything else.
I work for one of the largest companies in the world, so I understand in business there are no loyalties. To my company I’m a number, an asset; if I cease to be a profitable asset and they can save a buck by firing me, they won’t hesitate for one second despite my 14 years of dedicated service. If they fired me tomorrow, you better believe the first company I would interview with would be our direct competitor and if they hired me I would work my ass off to beat them at their own game. In that respect, LJ is probably a lot like me; we can partially assume he took the job out of spite, as the facts at least point that direction.
- LJ interviews to be the next head coach.
- Penn State goes with the hot young prospect and not LJ.
- LJ is offered to keep his current job by the new coaching staff but turns it down
- LJ takes the same job at Penn State’s biggest B1G rival days after turning down said job
Is it possible that all this is just a big coincidence? Yes. Is it infinitely more possible that given the fact he took the same position with our biggest rival in our recruiting back yard without even testing the waters at other schools days after he was turned down made him spiteful and he’s really looking to get revenge? Absolutely!
Here’s the thing, though: coaching at Penn State is NOT like working for a faceless multinational conglomerate. The one thing that Paterno has built and the administration has pushed is the idea of the Penn State "family". Do you think Larry Johnson hasn’t sat down in recruit’s living rooms and pitched the family atmosphere to parents? How many recruits and recruits’ parents are quoted as saying just that? The players and fans aren’t just part of it the entire community is involved with Penn State. THON is wonderful, but it wouldn’t be much of anything if the community didn’t open up their pocket books. The same could be said for Lift for Life, and many other charitable ventures. I truly believe Penn Staters embrace their school more than any other university. Whenever Penn State needs something, there’s always an alumni waiting to help.
That’s the rub; Larry Johnson didn’t turn his back on the university, he turned his back on the Penn State family in a time when they needed him most. Penn State is still recovering from the worst scandal to rock a proud university and the only thing we have to lean on is ourselves. Everyone outside of the Penn State family still hates us, even though we had nothing to do with it and Penn Staters have nowhere to turn. Larry Johnson was part of the healing process. Was. In the middle of all the turmoil that is still swirling around State College, Larry Johnson decides to leave for the same job at Ohio State because why? Spite?!? Anger?!? Did he really think a major university was going to hire a position coach that has no defensive coordinating experience let alone head coaching experience? Were they supposed to promote a defensive line coach at the age of 61? They had to believe that LJ was close to retirement.
That’s the other side of it for Johnson--retirement. Penn State has the largest alumni association in the world. An alumni association filled with business men (and women) and business owners that are part of the Penn State family. Larry Johnson didn’t just burn bridges; he carpet bombed them, burned the rubble, and salted the earth around those bridges. Had he stayed on with Penn State, I guarantee there would have been cushy positions at multiple businesses waiting for him when he retired if he wanted. Maybe he’ll happily retire and never work again, but I can say with some certainty he won’t work for someone in the Penn State family if he does need work. Do you think Ohio State will take care of him? OSU boosters take care of recruits, not former coaches.
In the end, Penn State will be fine without Larry Johnson Sr, but I wonder if Larry Johnson Sr will be fine without Penn State. We all accepted him as one of our own and treated him like family over the last two decades. He probably has 5 to 10 good years left it’s too bad he chose to turn his back on Penn State and spend it in Columbus and not with the Penn State family. One things for sure, he won’t be invited to any family reunions.
Jared tackled the point to this two-part series, here.