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Penn State Football: Paterno Wins -- Whether in the Press Box or Watching on TV

by on September 01, 2011 1:00 AM

It’s not that big of a deal if Joe Paterno coaches from the press box this Saturday against Indiana State.

He’s done it 10 times before -- in 2006 and 2008 -- and the Nittany Lions’ record was 8-2.

That includes an emotionally-charged 13-6 victory over ninth-ranked Ohio State in 2008, when No. 3 Penn State tattooed the Buckeyes on prime-time TV in The Horseshoe.

With JoePa in the coaches box, high above the stadium, the Lions recorded their biggest win of the past half-decade.

That’s nothing, though.

Joe’s so good that he has coached his team to victory while at home watching the game on television.


True. It happened on Nov. 11, 2006, the day after Paterno was released from the hospital following surgery to repair his broken leg and torn ligaments. Paterno sustained the injuries during the previous Saturday’s game in Wisconsin, when a pair of players barreled into the coach while he was along the sidelines.

A week later against Temple, Penn State team physician Wayne Sebastianelli relegated Paterno to the family couch in his home, located in State College’s College Heights neighborhood. The house is so close to Beaver Stadium that when Penn State scores a touchdown the roar carries all the way to Joe’s front door.

Offensive coordinator Galen Hall and defensive coordinator Tom Bradley were co-head coaches that day, as Penn State defeated visiting Temple 47-0. It’s doubtful Joe picked up the phone once during the game – but with a blowout of that magnitude we make no guarantees about the TV remote.

Paterno coached the final two games of the 2006 season from the press box, both wins -- at home against Michigan State, and at the Outback Bowl against Tennessee.

The other eight games came in 2008, when Paterno literally limped through the season after dislocating his hip. He had to be in more pain, though, watching the Lions lose 24-23 on the road at Iowa just one week after the aforementioned victory over Ohio State – derailing their hopes of a national title after beginning the season a perfect 9-0.

Immediately after the regular season finale against Michigan State, Paterno had a new hip implanted. A month later, he opted to coach from the booth in the Rose Bowl against Southern Cal, another loss.


Overall, Paterno enters the 2011 season having been head coach at Penn State for 539 games – 401 of them victories. That’s a .747 winning percentage, just a nudge below his .800 mark for his 10 games coaching from the press box. Field? Box? Little difference.

In his 695 games as an assistant (156) and head coach at Penn State, he literally did not see only two games.

One came as head coach in 1977, when his son David was injured in a trampoline accident. With wife Sue already on her way to Syracuse for the game with some other coaches’ wives, Joe rode in the ambulance with David the 81 miles to a hospital in Danville.

David suffered a fractured skull and was in a coma. But the young Paterno eventually recovered. Joe spent the night and Saturday in the hospital, missing Penn State’s Oct. 15th game at Syracuse.

The Lions won 31-24, and as recently as a press conference in 2009, Paterno recalled the graciousness of the SU coach at the time, Frank Maloney, as recounted by the Altoona Mirror’s Cory Giger.

“Maloney went in there” to the Syracuse locker room, Paterno said, “and before he even talked to his squad, he said, ‘Let's all kneel down and say a prayer for Coach Paterno's son.’ ”

Tragedy also surrounded the only other game Paterno has missed in his 62 years at Penn State. It came during his 16-year tenure as an assistant coach under Rip Engle. Paterno missed a game in 1955, when his father Angelo died and Joe was not there for Penn State’s 35-6 loss to Army on Oct. 1 in West Point.


It will be tight quarters if Joe is in the three-level box on the west side of the stadium on Saturday.

Beaver Stadium was moved in 1960, piece by piece, from its former site on the western edge of campus to its current locale, on the eastern edge of campus. That’s how we know the press box is only 51 years old – though it seems to be Paterno's elder. Restrooms, space, air conditioning and comfort are all at a premium.

Joe may be in discomfort, with his pelvis hurting and all, but his son is the guy I pity on Saturday. Poor Jay, a proverbial youngster in his early 40s, will be squeezed in up there with the likes of offensive coaches Dick Anderson and Galen Hall, both over age 70, and his octogenarian father.

If he’s not careful, a bocce game might break out.

And if the game is the blowout that’s expected, the older guys may want to sneak over to Joe’s house and watch the second half on TV.

We hear that almost guarantees a win.

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Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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