Remember when colleges justified the expense of their sports programs by claiming that they built character for the student athletes — and it was still true for the premier sports, like football? I’m not sure if any CQ readers are that old, but I know one man who still believes it … and he’s the head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions football team. Joe Paterno wants to make sure that his team learns character along with pass protections and blitzing schemes (via Mitch Berg):
This spring, six Penn State football players were arrested and charged for crimes stemming from an off-campus fight April 1 in which at least 15 Nittany Lions were present. The charged included a couple of star players, although what apparently bothered coach Joe Paterno the most was how many of his kids were willing to be involved.
And so Paterno, 80 now but no less tough, no less disciplined, hatched a plan to set things right within his program. He’ll let the local legal and student judicial process play out, but regardless he decided that to keep people from thinking his team was trash, it’ll spend the fall cleaning it up.
According to Paterno, the Penn State football team will clean Beaver Stadium after each home football game this fall. It’ll gather garbage, sweep stairs and maybe even hose parts down. …
It’s a job that usually goes to members of club sports on campus – say, rugby or crew – which do it to raise money so they can compete. Paterno said the clubs still will get the $5,000 for the job, but his guys, fresh off playing 60 minutes of major college football the day before, will do all the work starting Sunday morning.
It started as a personal conflict between Anthony Scirrotto and some passers-by who insulted Scirrotto and his girlfriend. That started a fistfight, which apparently left Scirrotto dissatisfied. He called some of his teammates when he found out that his antagonists would be at an off-campus party, and they crashed the party and started a brawl. Police arrested several of the team members, but more avoided getting caught.
Except by Paterno. When he heard the details, the lack of character and leadership among his team angered him, and he decided that they needed to learn both in a memorable way. And that’s why the pride of Penn State will raise funds for other groups on campus by replacing them on cleanup detail after Penn State football games all season long.
Will he lose players over this? Possibly. If so, those who leave will only hurt themselves. Paterno obviously cares more about his players and their futures than he does about winning ball games, and any student willing to turn his back on that kind of coach deserves to get exploited somewhere else.
This is why, although I always root for Notre Dame, Joe Paterno is my favorite college coach of all time.