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Giger: Joe, Jay Paterno hurting PSU program with their conflicts of interest

Commentary

October 2, 2011
By Cory Giger, cgiger@altoonamirror.com , The Altoona Mirror

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Penn State football continues its sad but inevitable plunge toward mediocrity because the program is engulfed by conflicts of interest.

Joe and Jay Paterno are making decisions based on what's best for them and a few others instead of what's best for the team.

Joe Paterno continues to coach so he can give himself something to do late in life. It's all about him, his fear of retiring and not wanting to wither away and die, something he saw his friend and fellow coaching giant Bear Bryant do just four weeks after leaving Alabama in 1983.

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JoePa can't see that he is not what's best for the PSU program. Because what's best for the program clearly would be turning over the reins to someone else, someone younger, more enthusiastic, more tied in to the modern game and more capable of performing 100 percent of his duties instead of the 60 or so percent Paterno is capable of performing at age 84.

Paterno putting himself and his wishes above everything else is perhaps the single-biggest conflict of interest in sports. He's taking advantage of his iconic status and holding the PSU program hostage simply because he can and because there's no one alive who has the right to tell him otherwise after all he's done for the university, the program and college football.

Conflict No. 2 is JoePa hanging onto his job so that his son, Jay, can continue to keep his high-profile gig as Penn State's quarterbacks coach and de facto offensive coordinator.

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Again, that's another decision made to benefit a few people -- namely the Paterno family -- and not the Penn State football program.

Once JoePa retires, Jay most likely will be out of a job. Maybe he'll catch on with another smaller program or at a major program in a lesser role, or maybe he'll run for public office. But there's zero chance he will be the Nittany Lions' next head coach -- the fan base would explode in anger if that were to happen -- and there's a very slim chance the next guy who takes over the PSU program will retain him in such a high-profile position.

None of this is groundbreaking news. Everyone who follows Penn State football closely has known for years that the first two conflicts of interest are in place.

It's also nothing new to point out that the university allows all this to continue because Joe Paterno is and will continue to be a cash cow from a fundraising standpoint, regardless of if the Lions go 11-1 or 7-5, which is where they're heading for the second consecutive regular season.

With regard to this season, Jay Paterno's conflict of interest about the quarterback situation is preventing the offense from reaching its potential or even improving.

Matt McGloin is the best quarterback on the team. That should be obvious to everyone at this point given how badly he has outplayed Rob Bolden through five games.

There are still fans out there who claim it's most important to play for the difficult final three games of this regular season, or next year, or 2013, and they're clinging to the "Bolden has much more potential" argument.

For those in that camp, I ask: When did college football become minor league baseball? When did playing somebody based on potential for down the road take precedence over playing the guy who's better right now and gives you the best chance to win today?

If you're worried that McGloin can't beat Nebraska, Ohio State or Wisconsin, then fine. He probably can't and probably won't because those teams are just better than Penn State.

But Bolden, who has started all five games, probably couldn't have beaten Indiana on his own, let alone those other three later on.

Without McGloin coming off the bench to throw for 204 yards and a 74-yard TD to Derek Moye, the Lions likely would be hanging their heads beneath their tails with an embarrassing loss Saturday to a dreadful Indiana team, instead of barely surviving, 16-10.

Yeah, McGloin is cocky, and yeah, he sometimes says things that rub people the wrong way and is perceived by many to be an arrogant big mouth.

"I deserve to be out on the field first," he told reporters after Saturday's win.

That's neither cocky nor arrogant. It's the cold, hard truth, and McGloin deserves credit for laying it on the line like that.

He's passionate. He's driven. And clearly he's got a massive chip on his shoulder after getting no Division I scholarship offers out of high school, coming to Penn State as a walk-on and outplaying a four-star recruit in Bolden who may have all the physical skills, but who at this stage doesn't have the moxie, feel or wherewithal to be a good college quarterback.

Bolden was 6-of-14 for 67 yards and one interception against the Hoosiers, falling even further behind in the stats race to McGloin. Through five games:

* McGloin: 144.3 passer rating, 44-of-76 (57.9 percent), 625 yards, 8.2 yards per attempt, 4 TDs, 0 INTs

* Bolden: 85.3 passer rating, 39-of-85 (45.9 percent), 455 yards, 5.4 yards per attempt, 1 TD, 4 INTs

Going back to last season, McGloin has led 32 touchdown drives to 15 for Bolden.

Given all that, why are we even having a quarterback debate?

Easy. Because Jay Paterno has a huge conflict of interest here.

Bolden is Jay's guy. The easiest way for Jay to silence the critics who think he's a poor quarterbacks coach is to have a big-time recruit come in, play a lot early, show marked improvement over time, lead an explosive offense and go on to the NFL.

It makes Jay look foolish to have Bolden struggle, fail to improve, get beaten out by a former walk-on and consider transferring. Pat Devlin and Kevin Newsome, two big-time recruits, both transferred out of the program, and if Bolden were to leave, too, it would send another signal to prep stars across the country that Penn State is a dysfunctional place where quarterbacks come to have their careers derailed.

One can argue that if McGloin beats out Bolden, that makes Jay look good because he's also developing him. I'll make the case that most everything McGloin has accomplished so far is a result of his intensity and desire to prove everyone wrong.

There's still enough time left in this season for Jay Paterno to put aside his conflict of interest, admit that McGloin is the better quarterback and commit to him not only as the starter, but as the full-time guy.

McGloin has earned the job, Bolden hasn't. It's that simple. And with a possible season-shaping game against Iowa coming up, it's well past time to make a decision and go with the best guy for the job.

If Bolden gets upset and threatens to leave again like he did in January, then let him leave. If he's not committed to Penn State and to sticking it out through the good and bad times, then he's not the kind of leader the program needs anyway.

There's so little true leadership in the program right now, and it all starts at the top with Joe Paterno's decision to cling so desperately to a job that he has to know he cannot perform at a high enough level any longer.

Until that conflict of interest is resolved, Penn State will never be an elite program again.

Cory Giger is the host of "Sports Central" from 4 to 6 p.m. daily on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM. Reach him at cgsports12@aol.com or @CoryGiger on Twitter.

 
 
 

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