Now that we know that Joe Paterno earns a salary of a little more than half a mil per annum (see this Post-Gazette article), which puts him in the bottom quartile of Big Ten coaches, we’re also finding out what he thinks about coaching beyond the end of his current contract, set to expire after the 2008 season. He wants to coach, “…maybe three, four, five more years as long as the good Lord keeps me healthy.”
“I think the perfect ending is you drop dead at the end of a game after you’ve kicked the winning field goal and you’re carried off the field and everybody is singing, ‘So long, Joe. It’s been wonderful.’ “
This Turkey wonders how it will actually play out. One thing is for certain—the on-line grousing and grumbling will increase in volume and Paterno will be cast yet again as a stubborn, selfish old man, a drag on the program, bla bla bla, ad nauseam. Face it, folks: it’s hard to foresee there being much originality in the coverage this issue will get because it has been beaten to death repeatedly over the past decade. I challenge bloggists and legitimate journalists to come at this thing from new angles to keep us entertained instead of boring us to tears with the same old “Joe Must Go” crap.
As for this Turkey, I’m on the fence. While I’ve perceived a decline in coaching efficacy—from my admittedly naÃ¯ve viewpoint—I also believe that Paterno has done a great deal to earn his elite status. He put this Penn State football program on the map. He personally funded a major library expansion. If indeed he has outlived his usefulness to the program, it is sad that he cannot see it. It brings to mind the end of Muhammad Ali’s boxing career: after losing to Leon Spinks, he gave us a brief flash of hope when he won the rematch, then was torn apart by Larry Holmes, and in his final fight, had nothing at all left for journeyman stumblebum Trevor Berbick. Joe gave us that false hope back in 2005, but he is now showing his age. He really should retire before he looks like Ali did with Holmes and Berbick, else he runs the risk of being remembered that way. But Paterno has shown that he gets what he wants from the administration at Penn State, so don’t bet against him dying with his boots on.