Posts tagged ‘Joe Paterno’
Our most recent issue wasn’t the first time we looked at Penn Staters at sea. As pointed out to us by LCdr. Ronald L. Smith ’77, we ran a picture of several Nittany Lions aboard the USS Saipan back in our March/April 1991 issue. There were seven Penn State alums in the shot – Smith, Lt. Thomas A. Forrest ’85, LCdr. Dennis Spangler ’67, LCdr. Donald McCall ’77, Capt. Wayne Pavlischek ’79, LCdr. Don Ditko ’77, and Lt. James Granger ’85 – along with two others who were on the ship but weren’t in the picture (Capt Dale Willey ’82 and 2Lt. Michael Bodkin ’89). The group was also joined by Joe Paterno…well, kind of: they were joined by a cardboard cutout of Joe Pa.
Between the nine Penn Staters on this ship and the 15 aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, “the Floating Lion” doesn’t just apply to the Blue Band’s trademark drill.
Bill DiFilippo, online editor
Penn State president Eric Barron addressed the media for about 20 minutes this afternoon, talking about the agreement that repeals the NCAA’s sanctions against Penn State. Here are a few of his comments:
—”I’m pleased we can close this chapter,” he said, “and look ahead to the important challenges and opportunities that face Penn State.”
—In addressing “a few key details” of the agreement, he mentioned that the $60 million fine imposed on Penn State “remains in the state of Pennsylvania, first and foremost.” Of that, $48 million goes to the Commonwealth, and the other $12 million “will remain at Penn State, to create an endowment, which is a long-term investment in [programs] … to help eradicate child abuse.”
—Asked about the fate of the Paterno statue, and other calls for Penn State to honor Joe Paterno’s career, Barron said: “Those who know me know that I prefer not to talk about things that will be a topic of discussion [publicly] … before chatting with lots of people. [But] there will be a time and place.”
—Asked what becomes of the Big Ten sanctions, including the sharing of football bowl revenues, Barron pointed out that the Big Ten is a party to the Athletics Integrity Agreement that will be renegotiated under the terms of the settlement. “I will discuss it with my fellow presidents,” Barron said. “They’re expecting that discussion to occur.”
—Barron was asked if, with the 2012 consent decree now erased, this might be a good time for academia to take a fresh look at the NCAA and its powers. “Hindsight is a fascinating thing,” Barron began. “I’ve talked to many of my fellow presidents, and did so to my ACC representative when I was at Florida State, suggesting that the NCAA moved too quickly. At the same time, they came to their decisions with the best possible motive—of not wanting to have such things occur, and with the notion that they had a responsibility to look … at institutional control. I see little purpose in trying to fault them.”
—He was asked to talk about how much communication there was with the Board of Trustees in the negotiations with state officials and the NCAA. He wouldn’t say much, except that “I hear frequently from my trustees, and that’s a good thing … but negotiation of details is first and foremost with the attorneys. … Then, when you have a sense of what agreement is possible, that’s the best time to bring it to the board. Then they can make the best possible decision. And, as you can see, the vote was unanimous.” He added that the negotiations were going on “right up to that moment,” presumably meaning right up until the start of the trustees’ meeting this afternoon.
—Asked again about the Paterno statue, he said: “Same answer. [I’m a] boring guy. There’ll be a good time and place.”
—In November, President Barron said he was committed to personally reviewing the Freeh Report. At today’s news conference he said today’s events don’t change that plan. “I am very appreciative that we’ve hit a tremendous milestone today, and that’s what we’re going to focus on,” he said, “but I don’t think my responsibilities change.”
—Asked if he had a message for students who might be inclined to celebrate today’s news, he referred to the spontaneous—but peaceful—rally that took place when Penn State’s bowl eligibility was restored last fall. “Our students acted with a high level of enthusiasm but with a great deal of respect,” Barron said, “and although I think I told you I was always worried about such an activity, I was very pleased by their behavior. And I’m hoping from every inch of my body that I can be equally proud today. This is something to be very happy about; this is not something that should promote destructive behavior in any way, shape, or form.”
Tina Hay, editor
We asked our intern, Erika Spicer, to attend Joe Posnanski’s talk Friday at the HUB. We’ve read and written so much over the past 10 months about Paterno and his legacy, and we were interested in Erika’s perspective—both as an undergraduate, and in particular as a journalism major. Here’s what she came away with.
As I sat in my plastic chair in Alumni Hall waiting for Paterno author Joe Posnanski to speak, I mulled over the fact I probably wasn’t going to learn anything new.
I am so tired of listening to people rehash the events surrounding Joe Paterno, I thought to myself, feeling a twinge of guilt as I sat among some Paterno supporters. With the release of Paterno in the midst of a new era for Penn State football, I knew where a lot of this discussion was headed Friday afternoon.
As I predicted, questions like, “How do you think Joe Paterno would feel about the NCAA sanctions?” popped up when moderator Malcolm Moran, director of the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism, which sponsored the talk, gave audience members the opportunity to ask Posnanski questions. Not that I could blame them –– after all, Posnanski not only spent (more…)
- Joe Posnanski had an impossible task. As he wrote before the book was published this week, he confronted an unprecedented challenge: writing a biography of someone who was suddenly engulfed in a national scandal—one that upended his reputation—and then died a few months later. I can’t imagine a worse scenario for a journalist.
- Joe Paterno was a complex, complicated guy—far more so than most of what’s been written about him would suggest. That includes my own work in two stints as a beat writer covering the team, and that’s been true since well before the Sandusky scandal broke. Paterno was tough to get close to.
Posnanski doesn’t shy away from either point. I admire that. (I should also note here that I’ve known Posnanski for years; we’ve shared press boxes and meals and a few jokes together. He’s a good guy.)
But if this isn’t the book Posnanski signed up to write—with the Paterno family’s explicit cooperation—in 2011, it’s also not the definitive account of Paterno’s life. It’s too soon for that book.
There aren’t any blockbuster revelations, and the choicest new details, about Paterno sobbing the day after he was dismissed, about how his family had to force him to read the grand jury presentment, about the “I Hate Jerry Sandusky Memo,” made their way into the media quickly through excerpts.
And, honestly, most of what was in the book, I already knew.
But keep in mind that I covered my first Penn State football game, for The Daily Collegian, in 1988, and that I’ve followed Penn State football and Paterno not only because I love college football and I’m a Penn State alum, but because my job required it. I’ve read every book written about Joe Paterno, even Joe Paterno: The Coach from Byzantium by his brother, George.
Some Penn State fans, I’m sure, will feel the same. This book covers a lot of familiar territory—far more pages are devoted to Paterno’s rise and his glory years than to the Sandusky scandal and aftermath, or even to the down years of the 2000s, which have been less well chronicled and deserve (I could say, need) a more full accounting. Posnanski is a lyrical, poetic writer, and he tells those familiar tales beautifully. He adds a few choice details. I expected nothing less.
The chapter about Rip Engle was terrific; I know a lot less about Engle than I do Paterno, so I found that particularly interesting. (Awesome tidbit: Engle didn’t like to say that a player “cheated” a step or two to one side in anticipation of a play, even though that’s totally legal, so he had players “fudge” instead.) I appreciated the occasional one-liners from Paterno family members, as well, including this gem from Sue, noting that their son David’s engineering aptitude certainly didn’t come from his father: “Joe couldn’t fix a sandwich.”
Posnanski also does an excellent job showing the toll that the pursuit of excellence can take on family life; particularly when Paterno is designing his new defense in the late 1960s, Sue and the kids are on their own.
It does, however, take a long time to get to the new stuff, and those parts of the book aren’t as richly reported. There’s a chapter on Paterno’s relationship with Jerry Sandusky that clearly spells out the differences between the two men and the fact that they weren’t friends; I think this will come as less of a revelation to anyone who’s followed the program closely, but that chapter is a good read. Scott Paterno, son and lawyer, and Guido D’Elia, friend and marketing genius, wrestle with the presentment and its aftermath; anyone who cares about Joe Paterno will be sad as they read those scenes.
Posnanski eventually recounts a conversation between himself and Paterno in which the coach asks for the writer’s take. Posnanski doesn’t let him off the hook; he tells Paterno he should have done more because “you are Joe Paterno. Right or wrong, people expect more from you.” Elsewhere, he writes, “It is certain that no one, Paterno included, was aware enough, courageous enough, or decent enough to stop a man who would be found guilty of forty-five counts of child molestation.”
Most reviews, however, have found Posnanski’s portrayal, as Dwight Garner of the New York Times called it, “breezy and largely sympathetic.” Rich Hofmann of the Philadelphia Daily News calls it neither a “prosecutor’s brief” nor a “full-throated defense.” Beat writer Mark Wogenrich ’90 of The Morning Call in Allentown provides a great framework for understanding the book using an anecdote about Paterno’s recruitment of John Cappelletti. Guy Cipriano, the new beat writer for the Centre Daily Times, writes that Posnanski “whiffs” on this book because he didn’t make the most of his exclusive access to Paterno, and that’s a take well worth reading, too.
There aren’t many new insights here, but Posnanski does raise some fascinating ideas. At the end of a chapter in which he recounts both Joe’s courtship of Sue and then-Oakland Raiders coach Al Davis’ courtship of Joe (he wanted Paterno to be the offensive coordinator), Posnanski writes:
“She had fallen in love with State College the first day she arrived on campus as a student, and though Joe did not know it yet, the rest of his life would be guided by her vision. Joe was cocky, ambitious, principled, smart, consumed by football, and determined to win; those qualities and others would make him a great football coach. But he would become a legend by seeing the world through Sue’s eyes.”
Now that’s something I’d like to know more about. You can learn a lot about someone by understanding their relationships—particularly the choice of a life partner—and breaking down the Paterno marriage would have been insightful. But that thread is never picked up. And it’s not the only one.
In a few places, Posnanski zeroed in on the contradiction that I’ve never been able to understand: How was it that a man who spent his life preaching the value of education, preparing his football players to live a productive life away from the football field, wasn’t able to walk away himself and enjoy the other facets of his own life?
In recounting the program’s struggles in the early 2000s and Paterno’s refusal to consider retirement, Posnanski writes, “So why go on? Why keep coaching? There is no shortage of theories, but no one can know the depth of another man’s heart.”
I’m sure I’m not alone in wanting to know a least a little more. Perhaps in another decade or so, enough time will have passed that more reporting can be done. For now, this book is as close as we’ll get.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
Usually, when it’s time to let readers know that the next issue of The Penn Stater is on its way to mailboxes, we try to walk a fine line — to give you a taste of the magazine’s content without giving too much away.
But in the case of our March/April issue, the face on the cover won’t surprise you one bit.
On Jan. 22, when Joe Paterno passed away, we knew immediately what direction this issue had to take. Putting together the magazine was about honoring a man who touched the lives of every Penn Stater. For one story, alumni and students recall the day they met the man himself. In one of three essays, Jay Paterno ’91 reflects on his father’s legacy. And throughout the issue, you’ll find plenty of photos — some of which you’ve probably never seen before.
Your magazine should arrive within the next few days. Let us know when you receive your copy and, as always, let us know what you think.
Mary Murphy, associate editor
Father Matthew Laffey of the Penn State Catholic Center set the tone—and provided a broad outline of Joe Paterno’s life—in his opening prayer. “Thank you for this man. … How fortunate this corner of your kingdom has been.”
The details came slowly over the next two hours Thursday afternoon, as speakers at A Memorial for Joe painted pictures of the man who helped to build—and became largely synonymous with—Penn State.
We met the competitive Joe. “The bigger the game, the quieter he was in practice,” said Todd Blackledge, quarterback of the 1982 national championship team. “But the gleam in his eyes told the story.”
The literary Joe, who never called Susan Welch, dean of the College of the Liberal Arts, anything other than “Dean,” who donated millions of dollars to the library, and who clearly passed that love of literature on to his son. Here’s who Jay Paterno quoted in his closing eulogy: Sophocles, William Blatty, U2, John Adams, John Ruskin, Tennessee Williams, Martin Luther King Jr., and Arthur Ashe.
The funny Joe, so quick with a one-liner, who told Jimmy Cefalo’s mother on a recruiting visit, “Your pasta is better than Mrs. Cappelletti’s.” (more…)