Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Blue And White Roundtable: Let's Get Longwinded!

Thanks to NWO for a solid round of questions. Wednesdays can be tough on a blogger.

Black Shoe Diaries
Run Up The Score
The Nittany Line
There Is No Name On My Jersey
Nittany WhiteOut
William F. Yurasko
The Nittany Notebook
Tangled Up In White and Blue

The announcement Wednesday is that contract talks are on hold until the conclusion of this season, and that Joe might not even need a contract to coach, how do you see this saga ending? Is this the final year for Joe Paterno?

Well, no, I don't think so. My initial reaction to the announcement, captured in time here, is that this is a terrible decision that will have long term effects on the program. Under no circumstances is this good for anyone. Recruits are simply not going to commit to a rocking boat of a program. The president is forced to wait out Paterno, something that has proven difficult to do. The assistants are totally screwed here because they could be fired after any one of these seasons with little or no warning (really makes you wonder if Norwood left simply because he saw the writing on the wall and needed some stability). Paterno's success, and therefore legacy, will suffer because of said recruiting effects and what will probably be a growing flight of assistant coaches. It's pretty clear this decision was more a result of stubborn heads than a conscious selection of alternatives.

If, as Spanier says, a contract "would have little practicality given Coach Paterno's seniority" then why not just give him a lifetime deal? I think everyone knows the answer to this question. Prepare for ugliness. Buckets of it.

Joe will clearly not be on the sidelines in 10 years time. Whether he is awarded another extension or is forced out against his will, a new face will inevitably be on the sidelines for the Lions in the years to come. Which candidates would top the list when it comes to a coaching search? Should it be an in-house hire or should we start off with a blank slate?

This is one of those questions I can dance around or simply answer. I'm going to dance. It is clear to me that the best thing for the program is an outside search with the offer of a competitive salary. All current assistant are interviewed like everyone else. This is never going to happen:

  • Spanier has already stated, several times, that a "high priced coach" is not in the cards. By "high priced coach" he of course means a decent guy at the going rate.
  • Paterno is not going to make this easy for anyone. He is coaching without a contract for pete's sake. If he said "one/two/three years and I'm done" then people outside the program could plan accordingly and interview in early December in order to minimize the recruiting losses. Well I get the feeling we won't know Joe is leaving until at least after his last bowl game.
  • There are going to be a lot of people who want Joe to coach forever. When he does finally leave, part of the reason, it's becoming clear, is going to be the pressure applied from Old Main and the boosters. Previously mentioned fans are going to resent the next guy who steps in and no one wants to be that guy...especially for a crappy salary and having to work with what will be an under-recruited team.
But short answer: Bradley if it's an inside job but only if Jay leaves. Otherwise I don't care. The outside front runners appear to be Schiano and Golden. I'd be happy with either. I would love to be able to keep Bradley no matter what, but I'm not sure if that can happen.

It almost seems as if we find another athlete in trouble with the law each morning when we read the newspaper. What has gone wrong with the once pristine image of the Penn State program?

I'm not going to be able to stomach a very long answer to this question. It appears the lack of consequences from the Scirrotto fight lead to other problems, namely the HUB thing and Quarless double dipping on drankin' charges. The Bell thing still blows my mind and I'm not blaming anyone for that but Bell. Maybe Joe isn't around enough...maybe he's not allowing the assistants to fill the apparent discipline vacuum...maybe the program never got over Posluszny...I'm out of ideas at this point.

After 14 years in the Big Ten, Penn [State] has not dominated the conference in football as most presumed when we joined winning only 2 Big Ten titles in that span. In 1994, Joe Paterno's undefeated Nittany Lions were also backstabbed by its Big Ten breathern when most conference members voted for Nebraska instead of Penn State. Is the Big Ten the right home for Penn State? Or would Joe Paterno's dream of an all-eastern conference be a much more ideal conference for the Nittany Lions?

These are some loaded questions. I grew up in Big Ten country and it's the football I can relate the most to. I understand it, defend the hell out of it, and I prefer watching it over other brands. That being said, there was a time (about two weeks last fall) when I thought a move to the Big East was the ideal thing to do. It would never happen, and I've come to realize it probably shouldn't.

There's a painful truth here that I think we all need to deal with: the reason the Big Ten doesn't seem to fit us is because we haven't yet made an impact on it. We've beat Ohio State once in the last six tried. The Michigan streak has gotten so long I honestly don't know what the number is anymore. Wisconsin has become more consistent than us. We plain sucked from 2002 right up until the Ohio State game of 2005.

I'd love to hold the 1994 thing against everyone but I simply can't. I understand what happened. PSU showed up, beat everyone's ass and appeared to be the powerhouse everyone feared they would be. Other schools were scared and didn't want to feed what was already a pretty powerful football machine with another MNC. If the same situation happened now I'd be willing to bet that 90% of the coaches would vote for PSU.

Besides that, Eastern Football isn't what is once was. Pitt has been garbage for long enough that I'm almost starting to agree with the people who think the rivalry is better off dead. Syracuse sucks. I simply don't care about Maryland. WVU has had several good seasons now but even after all that they are still looked at skeptically by most non-Big East fans....there is nothing to gain.

With the lack of our traditional rivals in the Big Ten conference, and our unwillingness to reschedule any of them in any consistent manner, which teams are emerging as Penn State's chief rivals in the Big Ten? (USC-Notre Dame proves that rivalries aren't all about geographic significance.)

Exactly, USC-ND proves rivalries can be about money and TV ratings. ND has lost the last six by 154 points (for you math majors that's an average of over 25 per game)! Exactly one of those games was watchable. (Sorry, can't pass up an ND dig).

We don't have a rival. It hurts to say but this is the summer of hard truths so I'm going to stick with the theme. MSU is not our rival. Michigan is a big game, but, again, not our rival. I think the answer to this question is Ohio State. I know we'll never be anything but their second biggest game, but that's something we'll have to live with. It really should be as much of an ego shot as everyone likes to think it is.

I will say this: if we start beating the best teams in the Big Ten, consistently, things will change. That's the only way.

UPDATE:...and yes, I'm making the trip. I mean, it's football!

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