With Paterno's Passing - College Football not Only Lost a Legend, but The Last Tenured Head Coach
Forty-Six years. Almost half a century Joe Paterno roamed the sidelines of PennState. Think about that for a minute. Some people do not live that long; while some businesses never survive half that time. Yes, Penn State is in shambles and yes the cloud of Jerry Sandusky roams over State College but for one moment let's think about what Joe Paterno accomplished as a head football coach - and lets pay homage to the last tenured coach in college football.
College football like many sports has been built on tradition. The Rose Bowl, The Sugar Bowl, The SEC, The Big Ten and coaching legends like Paul Bryant, Jonny Majors, Bobby Bowden, Jonny Vaught, Eddie Robinson and Woody Hayes. Guys that ended up at major universities - had a span of years on end of success, before being either let go or retiring then having a statue erected in their name at "said university".
Just about every school has that one coach they remember and say, he was special here, a legend here.
But - as the landscape of college football has changed, so has the coaching profession. In the big business that is college football as we know it today, coaches are hired to win now. Big television contracts, staunch alumnus and the what have you done lately mentality of fans have made it virtually impossible for coaches to stay at any one job over a number of years, which is what makes Paterno's stay at State College that much more remarkable.
In today's profession if a coach last's ten years at a university many start to ask has he passed his coaching life at that university.
Two examples that come to mind are Mark Richt a tGeorgiaand Bob Stoops at Oklahoma. Both coaches were highly praised when taking their prospective positions. Both men have been on the job for over ten years now. Richt going into his now eleventh season and Stoops is entering his thirteenth.
Both men have had remarkable runs for their respective programs. Both have won conference titles, and played in big games; but both have had what their fan bases would consider down years and unacceptable years as well - which in turn has caused dissention among the fan bases and at times many calling for their jobs.
In 1986 Paterno went 12-0 at State College to only follow that up with years of 8-4, 5-6 and 8-3-1. If Nick Saban did that at Alabama this day and age - the tea baggers in Tuscaloosa would be on his tail and some would want him gone. Don't believe me? Let Lord Saban slip for a year.
Both Richt and Stoops have had similar situations and both have hung on by a string. Penn State never wavered and stuck with Paterno who bounced back to win eleven games in 1991.
I understand this is not your uncles-Grandfather's college football we watch today. With recruiting a year round process, scholarship limitations and schools with a win at all cost mentality - the game has changed. We live in a society that has an entitlement attitude. We must win now and everyone gets a trophy which is pathetic - but I digress.
Yes football coaches are making a sweet living these days but the pressure is immense and burnout seems to come earlier now than before. Just ask Urban Myer or Jimmy Johnson or Jon Gruden.
With the pressure these coaches get nowadays from fans, the media and from themselves- most coaches put in about six to ten years if they are lucky at one school and move on; yet as fans we get upset if a coach leaves for another job (wanting that coach to become the next legend at "said university") or for more money or other reasons. These coaches now understand their window of opportunity is small and they have to position themselves as best they can to benefit financially and professionally.
Was Paterno at State Collegeway to long? Probably so. Should he have stepped down years ago? Again, probably so. But for just one day, lets think about what he accomplished- the lives he touched and the success he had at one job. Lets also think about that lifespan at that one job. A span that use to be common in the game of college football. A span where a coach went for years on end at said university to only become loved and cherished once his time was done.
Today we say goodbye to Joe Paterno, and we say so long to an era of coaching legends.
An era that will never be duplicated again because of the big business and pressure cooker job that college football coaching has become.