New Co-Host Leads to the Ultimate Interview Guest List
Last year I helped co-create the weekly Penn State football show “Nittany Game Week,” so you can imagine my surprise when I found out last week that I am being replaced. Yes, it appears that the show I helped start with Todd Sadowski from FOX 43 in York and my old Penn State colleague Tom Bradley has found a new member of the cast to take my place.
And the news was delivered by the show’s listing.
The choice to take my spot is a blockbuster, a person that takes the show beyond the mere mortal realm. The new cast member is certain to grab huge audiences with a perspective that bridges decades of football history and an other-worldly perspective.
Last week’s cable TV listings broke the news that the show was hosted by Todd Sadowski with insights from Tom Bradley and Joe Paterno. Let me say this: no disrespect to my co-hosts, but Joe Paterno deserves top billing on that listing. Second, the fact that Joe Paterno died over a decade ago makes his appearance on the show even more amazing.
“Nittany Game Week” has already featured an impressive list of national guest interviews: ESPN’s Chris Fowler, Fox Sports’ Gus Johnson, the incomparable Pat McAfee, ESPN/SEC Network Paul Finebaum, Anthony “Spice” Adams and supermodel/actress Angie Everhart. This year we’ve already had interviews with Fox Sports’ Urban Meyer, Trace McSorley and Fox News’ Emily Compagno. Fox Sports’ Jenny Taft joins us this week before Fowler comes on again for the White Out next week.
But Joe Paterno joining the show from the afterlife opens the door to a list of guest interviews that would be unprecedented. So we’ve re-worked the list of interviews to illustrate those that Joe would’ve come up with for 2022.
Show #1: With Penn State opening against the Boilermakers it would be tempting to have Purdue alum Neil Armstrong on the show but… UCLA Coach John Wooden was a Purdue alum, too. And although walking on the moon is a fairly big deal, Wooden was the Wizard of Westwood. And we’d have to ask him about Bill Walton and who doesn’t love Bill Walton?
Show #2: As Penn State continues a football tradition that began in 1887 it seems fitting to have Joe Mason on the show. For those that don’t know, Joe Mason was a Penn State baseball player who came up with the concept of a “Nittany Lion” in 1904 that was more ferocious than the Princeton Tiger.
Show #3: As Penn State gets ready to play Ohio U, George Linsz joins the show. George was the captain of Penn State’s first football team in 1887. That team swept a two-game, home-and-home series with Bucknell by the scores of 54-0 in Lewisburg and 24-0 at home. How did they become such a good road team? As the sole captain, George has thoughts on teams that name six or eight captains these days.
Show #4: Penn State goes to Auburn and while most of the guests on our show are already dead, we just have to make an exception for Sir Charles Barkley.
Show #5: For this show we’ll go with some history here. John Morris was Penn State’s sports information director in the 1970s, the man who guided Penn State’s only successful Heisman Trophy promotional effort. Just as importantly, despite mythology to the contrary, in the 1970s he and Fran Fisher worked with Penn State cheerleaders to create Penn State’s now iconic “We Are” cheer. He can share the advice he gave the cheerleaders about not starting it unless they went so all in, that Penn State would own that cheer forever. That advice certainly proved prophetic.
Show #6: For the Northwestern show, we’ll talk to the coach of the Big Ten’s original Chicago school, Amos Alonzo Stagg of the University of Chicago. He held the all-time win record until Coach Bryant of Alabama surpassed it against Auburn in 1981. Stagg foresaw the influence of pro football and paying players a century ago and we’ll get his take on NIL and revenue sharing.
Show #7: Penn State is off this week. With the current NFL controversy over some soft “roughing the passer” calls and college controversy over targeting calls our guest is Marcus Attilius, an ancient Roman gladiator. He’ll talk about playing in the Colosseum during the original “White Out Toga” games. He also weighs in on the rules designed to protect the modern-day gladiators. If you thought Troy Aikman’s comments were edgy, wait until you hear what Marcus has to say. Marcus was nicknamed “The Streak Killer” for upsetting not one but two heavy favorites and literally killing their 12-game win streaks.
Show #8: Penn State takes on Michigan and while it is tempting to have Bo Schembechler on the show, we invite Elvis Presley because, after all, there is also a big Alabama/ Tennessee game and it’s Elvis. The King will talk about the big game but also about his favorite pro team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. The King is really looking forward to seeing how new QB Kenny Pickett evolves.
Show #9: With Minnesota and the White Out game we invite Minnesota native and long-time football fan F. Scott Fitzgerald on the show. This Princeton fan hated Yale so much that he made the villainous husband in “The Great Gatsby” a former Yale All-American end. In 1927, he wrote of college football “It became something…..essential and beautiful. It became the most intense and dramatic spectacle since the Olympic games.” We’ll get his thoughts ahead of his first trip to the White Out.
Show #10: Up next, the Ohio State Buckeyes on Oct. 29. That is the date of Joe Paterno’s 409th victory. To mark that occasion, we’ll have long-time Grambling coach Eddie Robinson, winner of 408 games, join the show to talk about his trailblazing career as a Black college football coach at a time when the game was segregated across much of the country.
Show #11: This season is the 75th anniversary of the 1947 Cotton Bowl team that went 9-0-1, so we have a special four-member panel of guests. Head coach Bob Higgins is joined by 1947 team captains John Nolan and John Potsklan, along with Wally Triplett, who helped break the color barrier not only for Penn State but for the Cotton Bowl as well.
Show #12: With Maryland coming to town, we get Baltimore native Edgar Allan Poe on the show. Not the author, but rather the 138-pound 1891 graduate of Princeton who as quarterback was one of five Baltimore Poe brothers to play at Princeton. A relative of the author, this Poe will discuss the legend that the writer of the same name wrote “The Raven” while staying at the old Eutaw House in nearby Potters Mills.
Show #13: Penn State heads to Rutgers, the birthplace of college football. Our guests for the show are from that first football game in 1869. We interview Princeton captain William S. Gummere, who became the chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court from 1901-32. He’s joined by Rutgers captain William Leggett, who became a distinguished clergyman. They share their thoughts on the state of the game today.
Show #14: While Penn State plays Michigan State, we can’t overlook a terrific scheduling opportunity. Because Ohio State and Michigan play that week, we’ve landed an exclusive sit down with both Ohio State’s Woody Hayes and Michigan’s Bo Schembechler. It is a can’t miss conversation between two men who became bitter on-field rivals but remained friends off the field.
Show #15: With conference championship games and playoff/bowl pairings being announced, we have Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant on the show. Bryant comments on how the bowl pairings used to be settled (he often told the Sugar Bowl who they would invite to play his team). Bryant also wonders how many national titles he and other non-playoff era coaches would have won if a playoff had allowed teams outside the No. 1 and No. 2 slots to have a chance to make a run.
Show #16: The 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception, the greatest play in NFL History, is this December. And while Franco Harris and Terry Bradshaw are still alive to talk about it, we went a little further up the chain of command. In a “Nittany Game Week” exclusive, we sit down with Steelers coach Chuck Noll, Raiders coach John Madden and, to settle the debate once and for all, we have God, the almighty himself. In the ultimate use of instant replay, God will finally resolve one of the great mysteries of the church of football. Did the Steelers’ Frenchy Fuqua actually touch the ball before Franco caught it? You do not want to miss this one.
Show #17: College athletes’ ability to use their name, image and likeness to make money is a hot topic these days. To talk about how they would’ve done in their day we bring in All-American Jim Thorpe from Carlisle and Red Grange from Illinois. They were legendary national figures before they finished their college careers and could have landed massive NIL deals. They’ll share their thoughts.
Show #18: In our last show before the bowl season, Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne will talk about the current state of Fighting Irish football and reveal for the first time if George Gipp really asked him to “Tell the boys to win one for the Gipper.” Jesus Christ joins the show as well to discuss his own NIL deal, the use of his likeness for “Touchdown Jesus” on Notre Dame’s campus.
Show #19 and 20: This one is a special two-part interview and “Whoa, Nelly!” it is a doozy. We talk to the man who remains, at least for our generation, as the voice of college football, Keith Jackson. In the religion of College Football everyone takes a back seat to Keith Jackson, the man who delivered the best of all Saturday sermons.