Tuesday, June 29, 2010

After Joe Paterno, who?

No, this post is not going to examine who might replace Joe Paterno as Penn State's football coach once he opts to step aside. I'll leave it to others to offer an opinion as to who that might be.

Rather, I was struck by something as I scanned this list the other night -- with the possible exception of Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech, there is no current Division-I college football coach so immediately linked to his program as Paterno is to his.

Paterno became Penn State's head coach in 1966 (and he was an assistant before that). Beamer signed on at Virginia Tech in 1987. Those two have a combined 67 years at their respective schools. Incredible. (And, no, in case you are wondering I had no idea that Troy's Larry Blakeney was third on the longevity-at-one-school list.)

Of course, Paterno has achieved a status that might never be repeated in college football (at least not on the Division-1 level). It is impossible to think of the university without thinking of him. Despite my deep appreciation for college football, I'm not sure it is ever a good idea for a football coach to be a primary linkage to any institution of higher education, but that tie is tight when Penn State and Paterno are considered.

The "coaching carousel" is a popular discussion item when each college football season comes to an end, as media, bloggers and others begin to obsess over who will replace whom at which schools. Coaches opting to leave one school while under contract and go to another school is one of the more onerous elements of college sports, but the absence of loyalty certainly cuts both ways -- look at that aforementioned list again and see just how many people have been in their current places two or fewer years.

It's a simple arithmetic really -- win, and now, or get canned. It makes you wonder if Paterno would have made it through 43 years at Penn State if he had been hired today.

Yes, I think I know that answer.

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