THN Home Page

Cheap Seats: Paterno’s Legacy

By Les Barnhart | October 1st, 2003

It was once said that the only thing a person HAS to do is die and pay taxes. In the sports world there is a far worse third option: the sun will set on your career. For some this may be worse than dying, and we have seen others who have chosen to fight the IRS by not filing their taxes. Every player or coach will have the sun set on their career. Some may never have seen the sun but inevitably it will happen, and they will fade out of the sports arena. Some will resurface on television or radio, and some may even have their chance at coaching in the sport that they left. A lot of players and coaches fight the reality that their career is in fact drawing to an end. You see players put up this fight more than coaches because if a player isn’t getting the job done and gets let go, there is always another team out there that thinks he has some good left in him or that his presence will help the ball club (i.e. his being there sells tickets). If a coach starts fighting it and thus cant get the job done, he gets a pink slip and is told to clean out his office.

I am (as well as many others) witnessing a coach that is fighting it and yet the front office does nothing. Many people have owned a pet or may have heard the story of a loved one that was suffering. Perhaps that loved one was on life support and it was the only thing keeping that loved one from moving on and enjoying the afterlife. In the end, we must shed our selfishness and do what is right for everyone. If that means pulling the plug, so be it. If it means saying goodbye to someone that means the world to people, before their memory becomes one that isn’t reflective of the true person they were, then so too be it.

Friends, I am talking about what is happening in Happy Valley, Pennsylvania on the campus of Penn State University. And yes, I am talking about arguably the greatest college football coach ever to man a sideline, Joe Paterno. I am a proud graduate of Penn State and have been and will continue to bleed blue and white for many years to come. I feel the need to say that I love JoePa and all that he has done for the community, university and college football. But the Penn State football program has been forced to accept mediocre seasons and the fans have been told to “lower their expectations”. Gone are the days of undefeated seasons and National title runs, in are losses to teams that were once scheduled as a favor to help them with their recruiting. Forgotten are the days of Sugar Bowl wins and Top 5 rankings, remembered are the days of losing seasons, no bowl games and finishing in the bottom half of the Big Ten standings. And sadly, long forgotten are the days when Penn State’s image was as clean as undriven snow.

I understand that the decline of the Penn State program shouldn’t be placed at the feet of one man. Then again, those who know Joe know that he wouldn’t have it any other way. Coach Paterno’s legacy will remain forever. The only question is, which legacy will he be remembered for?


Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by Les Barnhart