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Penn State Football: We Are...Not Going to Mention Ohio State

by on May 31, 2011 7:19 AM

It is easy to pile on, to gloat, to kick a school in its Buckeyes when it’s down and out.

So we won’t do that.

(Besides, we already did, a couple of years ago.)

No need to bring up anybody’s name. We’re too good for that.

We’d even hesitate to mention that all this is nothing new, that ESPN The Magazine reported most of this back in 2004. About problems with grades, with gifts, with cars, with selling memorabilia.

Sports Illustrated confirms as much – and more -- in its report this week.

No need to bring that up. Oops. Sorry that we just did.

It wouldn’t be fair to think out loud about a prior recruiting loss, the big one that seemingly got away. You never know what would have happened if that quarterback had decided to come to Penn State.

He was the second-last player high school football player that Joe Paterno hit the road to recruit. And unsuccessfully at that. Or so folks thought.

You’d think all university presidents are pretty much alike. Dealing with tens of thousands of students, hundreds of thousands of alumni, thousands of millions of fundraising dollars. Big buildings, big academic egos, big football programs.

So they must be pretty presidential to succeed.

So gee, you have to think that Graham Spanier wouldn’t be afraid of being fired by anybody, let alone the football coach. (Of course, he wasn’t able to fire – er, suggest a succession plan – that coach, either. Of course, that never happened.)

Basketball may not be pretty in Happy Valley, but it’s never been on probation, never been cited for super-major NCAA violations. Penn State is the kind of place where the basketball coach leaves for another place that equally emphasizes honor, ethics, values. Some people thought he shouldn’t have been coaching, but that’s not quite like being told you couldn’t do so by the NCAA.

Many football fans think there will be a plethora of recruits next door abandoning ship. We don’t know. Not that Penn State gets many of those guys from Ohio anyway. Never has.

After a bump in the 1990s, Penn State signed almost the same percentage of Ohio State high schoolers in the 2000s (7.3 percent) as it did in the 1980s (8.0).

It’s been the practice of Penn State, with Paterno leading the way, to not accept forfeited wins from teams told to so by the powers that be. It’s called losing with honor.

(And yes, Your Honor, there were a lot of those – too many – Penn State defeats to the soon-to-be-vacator over the past decade.)

These days, Tim Curley is getting a lot of hits, especially for a half-century of basketball ineptitude. In context, the fish smells like roses from the head. He heads one of only two major college athletic programs that has never been hit with a major NCAA rules infraction or been caught up in a point-shaving scandal. The other? Stanford.

But c’mon, we need to be honest – about being dishonest -- here. In 1985 Paterno attended the national-letter-of-intent signing of Quintus McDonald. And then he turned himself in.

And stop right there. I know what you're thinking. But Joe never even received a traffic ticket for his little driving skirmish on campus in 2007. (I mean, who knows if he actually told the passenger of the other car, “That’s your wife? Well, that’s your problem.”)

Speaking of Joe, some people are going to say the impending search for a new football coach at the Big Ten school to Penn State’s immediate left will hurt Penn State when it begins searching for Paterno’s replacement.

I doubt it. You’re assuming Joe’s leaving after this season. (Or that Penn State would eventually hire Stoops, Mayer or Pelini – all Ohio natives.) I mean, his contract’s up. A new one is not necessary. Either he’ll coach or he won’t. It’s not about the money. If it was, his salary wouldn’t have been one-fourth of a coach in a neighboring state.

Money buys a lot of things, apparently, but not happiness, loyalty, integrity.

Not to mention any names.

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Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979. He is a senior lecturer in Penn State's College of Communications and teaches a pair of classes in the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism: “Sports Writing” and “Introduction to the Sports Industry.” He created and taught for several years the Center’s course on “Joe Paterno, Communications and The Media.” Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PSUPoorman. His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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