UNIVERSITY PARK - In the early part of the decade, when the Nittany Lions' program appeared to be on life support, Joe Paterno won a power struggle that included preserving his coaching staff.
Given how the culture of college football has morphed into big-time business - evidenced how Auburn fired its offensive coordinator a couple of weeks ago and Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden resigned the other day before he was pushed - JoePa's 2004 triumph, coming off four losing seasons in five years, is all the more remarkable.
And one, perhaps, that will deliver the ultimate payoff this season.
The Penn State Nation awakens this morning fresh from a 46-17 smothering of Michigan and standing perfect at 8-0 heading into Saturday night's season-defining moment in Columbus.
And while you'd be hard pressed to signal out what position has been the most valuable, it's clear the team is in the midst of one of the better coaching jobs it's ever done.
Even with JoePa confined to coaching from the press box, where he'll likely remain for the rest of the season.
And why not? He admits he can see much better. He can rest his ailing right hip and leg and, at this stage, there's no reason to tamper with success.
With Tom Bradley, Larry Johnson, Bill Kenney and Mike McQueary on the field, and Galen Hall, Dick Anderson, Jay Paterno, Ron Vanderlinden and Kermit Buggs in the press box, all is quite well.
''My being upstairs,'' JoePa said afterward, ''I'm not sure it's not the best place for me.''
Then he added with his tongue in cheek, ''I think some of the kids would rather I stay [a home] on McKee Street.''
No one in the Penn State camp is weighing in much on that one, except to say they believe, in the words of star tailback Evan Royster, ''it doesn't change too much.''
For the third straight week, Paterno did not address the team at halftime. He stayed in the press box and sent messages through his assistants.
''It's too tough for me to go down and back up,'' he said. ''I asked the coaches and they said we're OK. They knew what we had to do.''
Indeed. The defensive staff made some personnel moves and inserted the likes of Michael Mauti and Bani Gbadyu to help increase the Lions' team speed and tackling.
The offense overcame some early shakiness and eventually got control of the line of scrimmage well enough to free Royster and let Daryll Clark find his comfort zone.
The result was a dominating 39-0 stretch over the game's final 43 minutes.
Michigan, which never seemed overly satisfied with Lloyd Carr and over the next few years may come to appreciate him even more, helped Penn State's cause with poor special teams play and some suspect play calling by Rich Rodriguez when the game was still in doubt.
Michigan got Rich Rod via a national search. Paterno, 81, is going year to year, and it's unclear whether he'll be back next year - although this season has punctuated that it surely will be his call.
Whether it's this year or next or whenever, it's also unclear of the future of his assistants, and though that's the nature of the job, from this view, school president Graham Spanier could do a whole lot worse than the combination he's got going right now.
''I kept telling everybody I have so much confidence in this coaching staff,'' JoePa said. ''They're mature professionals. They're good teachers, they're close to the kids, and the kids respond to them.''
The Lions finally ended their streak by beating Michigan for the first time since 1996, and now they'll try to win in Columbus for the first time since joining the Big Ten.
And staring across the line is a Pennsylvania-bred quarterback, Terrelle Pryor, that chose the Buckeyes over Penn State.
''He's a heckuva prospect and a heckuva young man,'' defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, who recruited Pryor, said. ''It's going to be heckuva challenge.''
For both - a coaching staff that is thriving and a young quarterback that JoePa said, ''has got it all.''
Let's see whose stock is higher at this time next week.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.