I may be in the journalistic minority, but I think Joe Paterno should stay at Penn State for as long as he wants.
As the Nittany Lions gathered for their football eve celebration, it was interesting to hear Paterno marvel at opening his 62nd season in Happy Valley.
Just graduated from Brown University, the 23-year old Paterno joined Rip Engle's staff in 1950. Harry S. Truman was president, Alaska and Hawaii were not yet U.S. states, the Lone Ranger was one of television's most popular shows, and gas cost 18 cents per gallon.
Eleven presidents and at least two generations later, Paterno is still on-board at Penn State. Working for 62 years at any one company, or even in one profession is amazing, but it is even more remarkable in a vocation that is as fluid and fickle as football.
Since Paterno took over as head coach in 1966, there have been 883 head coaching changes in Division I-A; there were 22 after last season alone.
To put it into perspective, Paterno has been the head coach at Penn State for two decades longer than the legendary Bear Bryant led Alabama. Since Bryant's last season in 1981, the Tide have had nine different head coaches. Penn State - one.
Certainly, the Nittany Lion program has suffered some lean years, but it has also enjoyed tremendous successes on the field, in the classroom and in the community. Paterno has not only shaped Penn State football, but he and his family have had a profound impact on the university as a whole. Stadium expansions, a library wing, and interfaith spiritual center were all possible because of the Paternos' success, support, and vision.
Imagine the changes that he has seen in the world over his life: the Cold War, the Civil Rights movement, the fall of communism, the rise of terrorism, the list goes on; and Paterno's focus has never been only on football. He has championed the rights of women and minorities to participate in athletics, and to receive an education. His goal when he went into coaching was to make an impact; he has succeeded in ways that go far beyond the football field.
The loyalty he has shown to the university has been unfailing. Doesn't he deserve the same in return?
New isn't always better, and while no one wants to be stuck in the past, there is something to be said for continuity and tradition. And what is Penn State without that? While many teams are updating their uniforms with arena-like neon accents, the Nittany Lions take the field in their classic, plain jerseys, recognizable by their understatement.
The succession will happen soon enough, but it should happen on his timetable with dignity and honor. When that day comes, we'll miss him. In the meantime, let's enjoy him.
Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Kellie@Bedford-CountyChamber.org.