Penn State Preview: Coaching

SCPlaybook's Lyle Everett breaks down the #8 ranked Penn State Nittany Lions as they head into their clash with #5 USC on New Year's Day. Part One focuses on head coach Joe Paterno, with Parts Two and Three coming in the days leading up to the Rose Bowl.

At the astonishing age of 82, head coach Joseph Vincent Paterno is in his 59th season on the sidelines at Penn State University, the most of any football coach at any division in the history of the game. He has been at the helm in Happy Valley since 1966 and has already been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. "JoePa" has more wins than any other D-1 coach in the history of the game and has more bowl victories and undefeated seasons than anyone to ever grace the sidelines.

After clinching the Big Ten title this season with a blowout win against Michigan State, Paterno's career mark currently sits at 383 wins, 126 losses with three ties. His bowl record is 23-10-1, while winning every major bowl game (Rose, Orange, Fiesta, Sugar and Cotton) at least once. His teams have finished in the Top 10 21 times.

While Paterno has guided five Nittany Lion squads to undefeated (and untied) seasons, just twice have they been awarded national titles during his reign (1982 and 1986). The most obvious omission came in 1994 when Penn State, led by Kerry Collins and Ki-Jana Carter finished 12-0 after dismantling Oregon in the Rose Bowl.

Despite their strong New Year's Day performance that season, PSU finished a distant second in AP polling to Nebraska, who had to come from behind to beat a 10-2 Miami Hurricane team that finished #6 in the country. Overall, four of Paterno's undefeated teams (1968, 1969, 1973, and 1994) won major bowl games only to be snubbed for the national championship.

Paterno is a simple man with an old school thought process, most notably his belief in contract fulfillment. While under heavy scrutiny in Happy Valley from 2000-2004, during which his teams went 26-33 overall and 0-1 in bowl games, Paterno told Penn State faithful that if the 2005 season went the same as the previous four, he would "get (his) rear end out of here, simple as that." In 2005, the Lions went 11-1 and beat Florida State in the Orange Bowl in triple overtime. Paterno won Coach of the Year.

Now coaching in an era of multi-million dollar contracts and disloyal coaches leaving schools at the drop of a hat for more pay, Paterno has been the rock of college football. While guys like Nick Saban make $4,000,000 annually, Paterno's salary is $514,664 (as of November 2007). His remark: "I'm paid well, I'm not overpaid. I got all the money I need."

After guiding this year's squad to an 11-1 mark - their only loss came by one point on a last second field goal at Iowa - Coach Paterno's allegiance to Penn State was rewarded in the form of a three year contract extension that runs through 2011. Nobody deserves it more.


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