(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.


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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Time to Pass the Baton?

Joe Paterno spent the second half of today's Penn State -Temple game in the press box, complaining of a sore leg.

The off-season in Happy Valley has shown us two polar trends. First, the positive -- the Nittany Lions jettisoned their predictable 1970's offense for a spread offense that has given opponents fits this season. Okay, so no one will make a convincing argument that either Coastal Carolina or Temple warrants significant respect, but the switch is a sign that the only thing that will remain nostalgic at Penn State are the uniforms (which I hope they do not alter). Second, the negative -- the police blotter in State College, Pennsylvania has had too many appearances from Penn State players. The former is a sign that even an eighty-one year-old coach can adapt. The latter is proof that it's hard for aging grandparents to raise young adults.

I've blogged about this topic before, and some of you have bludgeoned me, especially when the Nittany Lions had a top-10 season a few years ago. While I applauded the turnaround at the time, I also noted that it was probably an aberration, akin to the Phillies' 1993 World Series appearance, which losing seasons surrounded and overshadowed. True, they went from JoePaTurnover's team to JoePaTurnaround's team. Every now and then lightning does strike in the oddest places. Taken together, though, you have an 81 year-old coach, a program that will not crack the Top 10, and a program that lacks the overall discipline that winners display. Show me a national champion, and I'll show you fewer appearances on suspended lists and police blotters than the Penn State gridders have shown this year.

And now the coach's health seems to be an issue. Okay, so the problem that put him in the press box might not be major, but, still, the Penn State administration must think about a successor now, whether it's Tom Bradley, the defensive coordinator, Rutgers' Greg Schiano (whom I submit would be a major mistake) or someone else (I would argue that Temple's Al Golden, a Penn State alum, would deserve a strong look. Yes, Joe Paterno is an institution, but a true icon knows when to hang 'em up and to try to leave a legacy that is stronger than his own. The sands are running low in the hourglass on this front.

Call it heresy, call it disrespectful, but when you write you have to take a stand. And that stand is that it's high time for Penn State to fete Joe Paterno and then turn over the reigns to someone else.


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