Saturday, August 8, 2009

Four Weeks From Today

Four weeks from today our 2009 season—the 123rd Season of Penn State Football will kick off when we take on Akron at noon. Remarkably, for the 60th time, Joe Paterno will be on the Penn State coaching staff for a season opener.

In 1950, Joe’s first season on the staff, Penn State opened at home with a 34-14 win over Georgetown in front of 16,617 fans. In four weeks over 107,000 fans will be in the nation’s largest stadium to be a part of the Greatest Show in College Football—how times have changed.

Joe once said “Contrasting what we had then to what we have now is like comparing the horse and buggy with going to the moon.”

Everyone has a part to play in the Great Show that is Penn State Football and I want to share with you what goes the morning of a game. There is a regimented schedule, a routine to keep the players focused on that day’s game—with a minimum of distractions.

That is one of the reasons we take the team to Toftrees the night before the game—to give them some peace and quiet the night before the game. As you can imagine, campus is a pretty lively, and loud, place the night before a game—not exactly the ideal setting for getting some sleep.

When they wake up on Saturday they are locked into a routine that takes them right up to kickoff.

Here is a typical schedule for a noon kickoff--one we'll likely follow four weeks from today.

7:00 Taping
8:00 Church Services
8:30 Pre-Game Meal
9:20 Depart Toftrees for Lasch Building
9:30 Arrive Lasch Building
10:30 Depart Lasch Building
10:35 Arrive Beaver Stadium

While all that is going on—our fans will be busy tailgating and having a great time anticipating a Penn State win.

The highlight of the pre-game experience is without a doubt the bus ride to the Stadium. Any player will tell you that—it is an unforgettable moment. That moment is even more special for the starting quarterback who rides in the front left seat of Bus 1 on the way to the stadium.

When we pull up to the stadium, the starting quarterback gets the nod from Joe Paterno—who sits in the front right seat—and the starting QB is the first one off the bus. Each week thousands of fans show up for the arrival of the buses. If you’ve never seen it, get there. It is an electric moment.

With practice starting Monday, we have a lot of work to do. It has been a productive off season—one fueled by Joe Paterno and his drive to make sure we have a great year. He has been on top of all the things we do defensively, offensively and on special teams.

He has challenged himself, and all of us to be even better than we were last year. In four weeks we get to see what we’re all about as a team in 2009.

Monday, August 3, 2009

To Honor and Serve

Rick Slater with me at the Golf Outing--Rick is on the right.

Saturday was the 3rd Annual Penn State Football Letterman’s Golf Outing and 128 former Penn State Football players took part. Student-Athletes from teams in the 1950s all the way through the current decade gathered for golf, but more importantly to catch up with former teammates and to meet other people who share a proud tradition.

Gathered were people who have gone on to do different things with their lives, some as doctors, others working on wall street, others as teachers, others coaching, and others as lawyers—just to name a few.

It was great to catch up with so many great people. Former teammate Bill Spoor was a walk-on who earned a scholarship while playing at Penn State. He works at Goldman Sachs, but that is only part of his story. He has since endowed a full scholarship at Penn State so that “he can pay back what Joe Paterno gave me”.

But there is still more to his story. He and his wife are heading back to Africa where he is hoping to buy some land, establish a school and help young people to come to American Universities. His goal is for them, once they graduate, to go back and be the inspiration for others to do the same.

The young people who get those types of educations will be the people who change the course of history. He hopes to raise $10 million from foundations to get it done—and anyone who knows Bill does not doubt for a minute that he’ll make it happen.

But there is more…..

At the dinner following the Penn State Football Letterman’s Golf Outing, Justin Kurpeikis got up to introduce a very special former Penn State Nittany Lion. It would turn out to be a moment that none of us there will ever forget.

He introduced one of his teammates—Rick Slater. Most Penn State fans will not recall his name, number or what position he played—but they should know his name for what he’s done since college.

Rick’s path to becoming a Penn State Football student-athlete was an unconventional one. He graduated from high school in Flint, Michigan in 1988. Before coming to Penn State, he served 8 years in the military, primarily as a Navy Seal. He enrolled at Penn State in 1997 and decided to try and walk-on to the football team—at the tender age of 28 years old.

He made the team, and although he didn’t see a lot of game action he made lasting impression on all of us. He became a great influence on a lot for younger players who looked up to him once they knew this “old” guy’s story.

When I’d walk through the locker room, Lavar Arrington, Brandon Short, Justin Kurpeikis and other guys who were big-time players for us would be gathered around his locker listening to him tell stories. I remember hearing one about a monkey in Panama who refused to get out of Rick’s jeep.

In the summer work-outs the toughest part of the running is the phase when our guys finish by running twelve 300 yard sprints. To accommodate the team they used to have three running groups, one at 6 a.m., one at 7 a.m. and one at 8 a.m. Rick would show up at 6 a.m. and make all the times for the 300 yard sprints. Then he’d stick around and do it again and again—passing the times for ALL thirty-six 300 yard sprints.

Through that, he earned the respect of his teammates, but also in so many other ways.

He became the oldest college football player in the country during the 1999 season when he started camp as a 30-year old junior.

In his senior year an injury ended his football career, but he went out for the boxing team. All he did was go out and win the National Championship in his weight class.

As Justin Kurpeikis introduced him, he explained that after college Rick was going on with his life until September 11, 2001. The terrorist attacks on this country changed the course of Rick’s life. Rick knew what he had to do—he re-enlisted as a Navy Seal.

By the time he stood up to speak to the group assembled last night, he had completed a total of 5 tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and will be heading back again. But even those facts aren’t what hit us all.

It was what Rick said to all of us.

“The fact that we all played for Penn State and for Joe Paterno, in my mind, makes us all brothers. My time on this team is among the most meaningful things I’ve ever done in my life. We are all better men for having played for Joe Paterno and these coaches.”

Then he pointed to the belt he was wearing, and we all recognized it as a belt you would wear in your football pants.

“This belt I’m wearing, is the belt I wore in my football pants on Saturdays at Penn State. I wear it today, but this belt has also been with me ever since I left here. It’s been with me when I jumped out of airplanes at 25,000 feet on oxygen at night, it has been on all my missions. I wear it for all the guys who played at Penn State—all the guys who played before me and all the guys who will play after me.”

Needless to say it was completely silent as he spoke those words. It was a recognition that we are all part of something special, something that will always be a part of us—no matter what we do or where we go. It was the recognition that here was an example of someone who even in the midst of war, has a part of Penn State Football and what he learned here with him.

Most important it was a reminder to us all that while we live our lives in this country—lives of relative safety and enormous freedoms, there are still those putting it all on the line for us every day.

The words that Rick Slater spoke will stay with me for a long, long time. They are words I will surely share with the young men I get to coach this fall, and every fall I coach here at Penn State.

The last stanza we sing of the Penn State Alma Mater contains the words:

“May no act of ours bring shame, to one heart that loves they name. May our lives but swell thy fame dear Old State, dear Old State.”

You may not know his name, but his actions as a soldier for this country have swelled the fame of Penn State. He has certainly made me proud, and all of his brothers who played here before him, with him and after him are honored to count him among our legions.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Iran from inside Iran

As I watched the images from Iran of young protesters being met with police and government crackdowns (including cell phone and facebook), I couldn't help but think of the images from China and Tiananmen Square from 20 years ago.

Rather than try and give insights, I will just let the words of people on the ground speak for themselves. I just pray that this protest ends in a way that is more peaceful, and more just than the resolution of the standoff in China twenty years ago.

A friend of mine came to the United State from Iran and on his facebook site he posted the following items. One is a personal observation he made and the second is a facebook message he received right after the protests began:

The pictures are eerily similar to those that I lived through in 1979. I'm praying for the best. May love and peace prevail.

From within Iran: 'It feels like Martial Law here. Cell phones are down, internet lines are horrible, Facebook is filtered, and ... They have also annoucned there that if someone comes out of their house they will be arrested. So keep your fingers crossed and pray for us. Tomorrow is a great day. I gave you the news. Please try to publish it. Thx."

Here is a report from the New York Times:

Monday, June 8, 2009

Penn State Proud of Success With Honor

At Penn State we are fortunate to have a lot of outstanding young men who fight every day to achieve Success With Honor.

Honor is a lost word in today’s world. But at Penn State, Joe Paterno believes in Success With Honor—and has always believed that he should teach the young men who come here about Honor. Many of them learn about Honor by giving their time and caring for others through outreach and volunteerism to various causes.

Last Thursday Night most of our team participated in the Opening Ceremonies of the Pennsylvania Special Olympics. Many also volunteered throughout the weekend.

This past winter during the Penn State Dance Marathon many of them spent time with the children and their families.

In a little over a month, they will hold the annual Lift For Life—an event that they have organized as a team to help raise funds for Kidney Cancer. (more on that as we approach the event on July 10th but here are highlights from last year's event)

Through all the time demands on them to be winners on the field and in the classroom they find the time to put others first. This is a team that won the Big 10 Football Championship, has the highest NCAA Academic APR Rating in the Big 10, and will post a 90%+ Graduation rate—also the Best in the Big 10. They accomplish all of this while finding time to get involved in the community in so many ways.

There’s a lot for me to brag about. But I wanted to share with you an e-mail I received last Friday from a man who was at the Youngstown United Way Dinner—where our Quarterback Daryll Clark Spoke to a packed House. The e-mail speaks for itself and is being used here with permission of the sender.

Hi Jay,

Just a quick note to let you know that everything that you told me about Daryll Clark during dinner at the PENN STATE event at the Canton, Ohio Football Hall of Fame on May 2nd rang true to me and to hundreds of others tonight in person. My son Aaron and I attended the Ohio Mahoning County United Way “Champions Among US” fundraising dinner earlier tonight in Boardman, Ohio.

You probably know that Daryll and his family were guests at the dinner tonight. Daryll was introduced to a crowd of over 600+ people and delivered a very brief, but positive and moving talk.
He was very polite and professional and spoke very highly of PENN STATE and the entire football coaching staff. He also publicly thanked and acknowledged his mother for all of her support and especially when he attended Kiski Prep. His “never quit” work ethic and attitude were referenced as well.
It was quite obvious to everyone in attendance that Daryll is a real leader and I know that every PENN STATER in attendance is very thankful to have him as one of our 2009 team captains.

Daryll was gracious enough to spend time talking with my son Aaron a 2006 PENN STATE graduate from The Smeal College of Business after the dinner and stand for pictures.

Jay, although I told Daryll this before we left the event tonight, please let him know just how very proud of him that all PENN STATER’s are throughout New Castle, Pa, Youngstown, Ohio and the entire tri state area!
Best of luck and much continued success as you prepare for the summer work outs and camps.
Hopefully we will see you and some members of the squad at the annual “Lift for Life” event on campus on Friday, July10th.

Best Regards,
Samuel M Bernstine

Friday, June 5, 2009

Todd Blackledge Penn State Distinguished Alum

This weekend Todd Blackledge will be honored by Penn State when he is named a Distinguished Alumnus. This is the highest honor that Penn State bestows upon an alumnus and it is one that is well deserved.

From his time at Penn State through his current career at ESPN, Todd has always been a class act. He has always represented Penn State in the highest light.

In the fall of 1980, Todd emerged from a two-way QB battle to win the job over Jeff Hostetler--but not until week four. From 1980-1982 when Todd finished his career, he led Penn State to three consecutive Top 10 finishes—including a National Title in 1982. While being a team leader, earning Academic All-American honors, and winning the Davey O’Brien Award (as the nation’s Top QB) he was also selected to Phi Beta Kappa—the nation’s oldest Academic Honor Society.

He and his roommate—All-American RB Curt Warner helped form the core of the first offense in NCAA History to win the National Title while gaining more yards passing than rushing. In 1982 both Blackledge and Warner finished in the Top 10 in the Heisman Trophy Voting.

As a fourteen year old fan, sitting in section SK that year, there was never any doubt in my mind that Todd would deliver. His game-winning touchdown pass to Kirk Bowman against Nebraska was in the south end zone. That pass, along with the TD pass he threw to Greg Garrity that clinched the National Title against Georgia in the Sugar Bowl—remain iconic moments in the history and legends of Penn State Football.

After 7 years in the NFL (with Pittsburgh and Kansas City) he moved to a career in broadcasting. His talent helped him to move rapidly up the ladder. During his career he was in studio on college football game days for ABC Sports. He then covered the SEC with Vern Lundquist for CBS Sports before coming to ESPN to do Saturday Night games.

He was nominated for an Emmy—alongside people like Tim McCarver and John Madden—and was the only analyst covering college sports to be nominated.

As a coach, I appreciate the demeanor and style with which he covers a game. His insights into how the game unfolds are usually right on—he has a great football mind. From our pre-game meetings on Fridays he gets great information from us as coaches. He then takes that information and transfers it to the fans in a way that is easily understandable—but no so basic as to insult the intelligence of veteran fans.

If you talk to college football coaches, he is easily among the most respected people covering college football today.

What Todd may now be best-known for—is becoming the Emeril Lagasse of College Football. Starting with what was essentially a one-shot profile on a local place to eat during a telecast—Todd’s segment soon became “Todd’s Taste of the Town”. It has even grown to include a corporate sponsor and a tricked-out Tour Bus.

Since watching him play at Penn State I have gotten to know Todd away from the football field. He is a committed family man, someone who truly puts his family first.

He has even started his coaching career—guiding the North Canton Hoover High School Freshman basketball team to an undefeated record this past year.

Todd loves his family, his football and his food—and in that order. One night two years ago, I got to see it first hand. While in Canton, Ohio during May recruiting I was invited over to Todd’s house for dinner. He and his wife cooked out on the grill—dinner included chicken, steak and lasagna all of which were great.

We talked football too—so that covered the food and football.

The family part came after dinner when it was time to throw batting practice. Todd’s got a great yard for wiffle ball, and I soon learned that his sons had advanced skills. It is not everyday that a five-year old can take the pitch of a 38 year old and send it deep.

For those that know Todd as a person and as a professional, we all know that this Honor is well deserved. Everyone here at Penn State is tremendously proud of what he has done, and Penn State is truly a better place for his having been a part of this great institution.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Penn State Pride: It’s About the People

-This is a column that I wrote last fall for the Centre daily Times--I wanted to be sure that I shared it again--as the summer approaches and the season nears. The Football season is about so much more than just what we do and what happens on game days.

On an early September day in 1973 a life of Penn State football memories began at my first game at Beaver Stadium. From the south end zone bleachers I saw the band, watched the players and smelled the cigars and pipes men smoked in the stands. To this day, the smell of cigar or pipe smoke ships my mind back to my early days at a Penn State game. I’m a boy bundled up and seated in the south end zone on one of our trademark cold grey November days.

In the 35 years that have passed since then, I have witnessed — and have been a part of — Penn State football.

When asked about a favorite memory or memories, how could any Penn Stater list just one or two or even 20?

All of us have our own set of memories on the field that mark our ages: Mike Guman scoring on fourth and 1 against Pitt in 1978 to seal an 11-0 regular season. In 1981, Kenny Jackson making an unbelievable spin move on the sidelines against Pitt to spark a 48-14 rout over the country’s No. 1 team. Ten months later Kirk Bowman making the game-winning touchdown catch against Nebraska in the first Penn State home game under the lights. Gregg Garrity’s catch against Georgia…the Fiesta Bowl showdown against Miami...both national Titles.

The memories go on and on and on…..

Being a part of Penn State football has meant so much more than what happens on game day. It is being a part of something so big, it’s being part of The Pride of Lions that encompasses all who love this place and this team. Fans, students and alumni, as well as everyone who works with or plays for our team — are all part of the Pride.

This Pride is about people. I turned five years old in the fall of 1973, when I watched John Cappelletti run into the hearts of America and win the Heisman Trophy. I’d draw pictures for him and send them to work with my father.

I can still see Sports Information Director John Morris handing me an envelope with a signed picture of John Cappelletti inside. Thirty-five years later, that picture is in my Lasch Building office, near drawings my kids make for me.

On Sunday mornings, Ridge Riley — who wrote The Football Letter for the Penn State Alumni Association — would come over to talk with Joe about the previous day’s game. He’d also work on the book he was writing, “The Road To Number One,” a book that is also in my office.

Home games meant excitement and house guests. Friday nights of home games, we’d wait up until my grandparents Alma and August Pohland would arrive from Latrobe. For homecoming, they’d meet us for the parade after they ate at The Tavern. Once a year, Bill Shearer and his wife Bobbi would stay with us—bringing candy for all of us.

Another member of the Pride was my late Uncle George Paterno, who is still talked about fondly by the older writers on the Penn State beat. I can still see him in our house arguing about strategy with my father after every game.

There were plenty of others. Jack Brannigan, a great friend of my parents, used to tell me stories that took place before I was born; watching future NFL Hall of Famers Lenny Moore (Penn State) and Jim Brown (Syracuse) play on the same field.

Tom Runyan,a Delta Chi from the 1940s, was my neighbor when I first moved back to coach here in 1995. He talked about the great players he had seen over the years, but also about taking kegs into the stadium.

There was a great coaching staff, Frank Patrick, J.T. White, Sever Toretti, Jim O’Hara, Dan Radokovich, George Welsh, John Chuckran, Booker Brooks, Bob Phillips, all people who would make a little 5 year-old kid feel like a member of the team when I was around.

Many of these people are gone, but I often think about those who’ve died looking down on us and hoping that we make them proud.

Coaching brought me back to Penn State, and it has been the people and places I’ve come in contact with as a coach that have made the greatest memories.

I’ll never forget standing in a Philadelphia hospital with Kenny Jackson, Bill Kenney and Tim Curley just days after Adam Taliaferro’s injury. When the doctor told Adam’s father that he had a 1 in 10,000 chance to walk again, Andre simply said, “Don’t worry doc, my son’s one in a million.” He was right, but in those earliest, darkest days after the injury who could find that strength?

Anthony Adams’ mother had that strength. Anthony came to us from Detroit, but it was his mother who really got him here. A single mother, Connie raised Anthony to be strong and proud. When Joe and I visited him she took us to their church and told me she was entrusting her son’s future to us.

“I have always been very careful about the men I allow him to be influenced by.” She said.

That meant a lot to Joe and to me. Anthony, now a Chicago Bear, is a loving husband and father. Every time I see him he puts a big smile on my face. Connie, I hope we paid back your trust.

There are great people in some of the toughest places in this country. I’ve stood in inner-city high schools for weapons search lockdowns. At a Youngstown high school game the athletic director’s secretary warned us that they expected some “gun play” after the game and that if we just stood against the wall behind us that we’d be okay.

Seeing so many places and meeting so many people, I realized that Penn State football stands for so much more. It stands for opportunity. It stands for unity, of team, of school, of community. It stands for a place where young men can come get a meaningful education, and play on a great football team. It stands as a place where young men will be judged “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

My “circle of life” moment in Penn State football really came in 2005. Thirty-two years after I began going to games, my oldest son was about the same age I was in 1973. That season I gained a passion for Penn State football; in 2005 I could see my son gaining that same passion.

In 2005 Michael Robinson passed, ran and bulled his way into the lore of Penn State football. From the fourth and 15 pass against Northwestern through the Orange Bowl, one of Penn State’s all-time gutsiest performances, he would not be denied.

As that magical season started to take shape, I saw my son and how the games were impacting him. I also saw myself. I saw that I was handing down to him the same passion, the same fire and most importantly membership into a bigger family, a Pride of Lions that is Penn State football. All of us — players, coaches, students, alumni and fans — are in the Pride and once in, you never get out.

I’ll be a Nittany Lion until the day I die and that continues to give meaning to the memories I have and will forever create.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Memorial Day 2009

Memorial Day (The words on the Atlantic side of the World War II Memorial in Washington DC—which is a beautifiul tribute to the soldiers of that war).
(Updated note---May 25th--After this was posted I got good news in an e-mail from Lt. Mark Natale--they will be headed out of Iraq early and back to Germany--in about 1 month and a half. Godspeed)

This is Memorial Day Weekend and that should bring to us at least a moment or two of reflection as we gather with family and friends. Here in State College we sit just three miles from the town of Boalsburg where the Memorial Day tradition of decorating the graves of fallen Civil War soldiers began.

Over the years since that tradition began in Boalsburg, we have fought many wars—wars all over the globe—to protect our freedoms and our interests. Both of my Grandfathers served in the military—Angelo Lafayette Paterno served in World War I in Europe and August Louis Pohland served in World War II—also in Europe.

As Memorial Day comes around this year, we must be mindful that courageous men and women are still risking their lives in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

While I have never served, I have tremendous respect for those serving our country. Over the years, I have received e-mails from soldiers serving on the front lines. We hear from soldiers who are Penn State fans, who try and keep up with our games so they can have just a little taste of home.

One came from 1st Lieutenant Mark Natale—from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania--serving in Iraq. His commander, Lieutenant Colonel Lestochi is a Penn State fan as well. They are with the 54th Engineering Battalion based in Bamberg, Germany and were stationed in Baghdad.

Last fall they began an operation called Task Force Nittany and wanted us to know that when they could, they’d be watching our games in Iraq. Just before the season opener, I even managed to call Lt. Natale from the field in Beaver Stadium just before pre-game warm-ups. He said hearing the crowd in the background as we talked made him feel like he was almost there.

(Sign for Task Force Nittany—one of which hung on the door of the Quarterback/Wide Receiver meeting room this fall).

(The HQ for Task Force Nittany in Baghdad—notice the PSU Football poster lower left side and stand-up Joe by the Flag).

(Love the paint job on the trucks for Task Force Nittany).

Last summer, I also received an e-mail from the wife of one of my high school football teammates—Tony Reede--a Marine also stationed in Iraq.

These are examples of the correspondence we get—bringing home the fact that there are individuals—individuals of great courage and great strength around the world protecting our country.

In the book War and Peace, Tolstoy discusses the strength of the men in the field and the importance of that strength.

“Sometimes when there is no coward in the front to yell “We are Cut off!” and start to run, but a brave, spirited lad who leads the way with shouts of “Hurrah!”—a division of 5,000 is as good as 30,000.”

As we observe Memorial Day, let us all be sure to think about those who have sacrificed so much for our nation—and say a prayer for those still on the front lines. Take a moment and watch the video link below from the New York Times—it will put faces to the stories we read about the wars we are still fighting.
The video runs just over 5 minutes, but it will stay with you long after you're done watching.

You see first hand the courage these troops show in the face of the gravest of dangers every day. These are exactly the type of brave, spirited people that Tolstoy wrote about.

No matter how you feel about the wars, we can all agree that the men and women in the field—people of courage—are all deserving of our thoughts, prayers and support. Think about that on Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Spike Lee, Student-Athletes and Education

Tonight ESPN will air a documentary about Kobe Bryant by Spike Lee. With Spike Lee in the news, and Penn State's Graduation weekend here, I wanted to share a story.

Spike Lee is a filmmaker who has been both praised and criticized for his views on a range of topics. His 1989 film “Do the Right Thing” was responsible for a whole wave of discussion on the subject of urban race relations in this country. For everyone (like myself) who loved the movie, there was someone who would argue that it promoted violence.
But that has been at the heart of his greatest moments--an ability to spur discussion and dialogue.

Spike Lee has created a vast and widely diverse range of projects---from the aforementioned “Do The Right Thing” to “Jungle Fever” to “Summer of Sam” to “25th Hour” to his famous Mars Blackmon Nike ads with Michael Jordan. In my mind two of his most powerful films were “Malcolm X” and the documentary “When The Levee Breaks”—about Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath.

Back in 2005 I was fortunate enough to have a chance to talk with Spike Lee. For about a half an hour prior to a speech he made at Penn State’s Eisenhower Auditorium we talked on a range of subjects. I took quarterback Michael Robinson and defensive end Matt Rice with me to meet someone they both idolized.

In the discussion about student-athletes, Spike Lee made a comment about the student-athletes being used, and deserving to be paid to play. He referred to the NCAA’s system of amateurism in big-time football and basketball as a glorified plantation system.

In the next few minutes I gained respect for Spike Lee—because he engaged in a give and take discussion with me on the subject. His views were not set in stone. He was as good a listener as he was in passing on wisdom he had gained in his groudbreaking career.

What we agreed upon was this: The student-athletes getting “used” were the ones who did not get their education. Student-athletes should demand that universities respect and honor their right to get the education they want. Unfortunately, far too many are getting used by the system.

I pointed out that Penn State's African-American Football Players routinely graduate at a rate of about 80%--roughly the same graduation rate of all Penn State students and well above the national average for African-American Football Student-Athletes (around 50%).

We ask a lot of our players, but the NCAA has rules we adhere to: In-season we are only allowed to use 20 hours a week for football, in the off-season that numbers drops to 8 hours a week.

I asked Spike Lee that if I offered him a chance to work 20 hours a week for 18 weeks and 8 hours a week the rest of the year—and that would enable him to graduate from college debt-free—would he take it?

Like most people, he answered yes.

In his speech that night in Eisenhower Auditorium he did talk about college athletics. When he was critical of the system he paused and mentioned Penn State’s stellar graduation rate and commitment to academics--was the exception.

With graduation weekend here at Penn State, it is a good time to remember what sets Penn State apart from so many other schools—that commitment to academic and athletic excellence that is second to none nationally.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Q & A From my Twitter Site

Because I am not one who wants to always be limited to 140 characters for my answers I have taken the Qusetions I got at my twitter site and brought them here for the Q& A. I also don't want to blow up everyone's Twitter sites when I post ten-fiteen answers.

Here we go:

Devon2012@JayPaterno can you guys meet with guys you've offered scholarships too outside the camp?

We are not allowed to meet with them on the day of the Nike camp. We can meet with them either the day prior to or the day after the camp.

feetforlove@JayPaterno but athletes can take an unofficial visit while they're in town, correct?

They can take an official visit—just not the calendar day of the actual camp.

ksubramz@JayPaterno - What's your favorite play in offense ?

My favorite play on offense is when we take a knee to end the game. I love that play and I love when we run it because it means we’ve won and that the hay is in the barn. I am also a big fan of play-action passes.

TDWood@JayPaterno Joepa recently said he wants the B11 to add another team. If the decision was up to you, what school would you choose to join?

I’m not sure I’d add one. With a 12-game season already the season is long enough. If we get a college football playoff, then I could see the merit of going to a 12th team and playing a Big Ten Title game. All that being said—I’d be shocked if the Big Ten ever added another team.

oldveteran@JayPaterno Tell your dad,hes got a great idea for Big Ten playoff. Get Notre Dame to join. They would gladly accept now.

I’m not sure that Notre Dame would jump in—they’ve had a couple of chances and they feel as though it is not in their best interest.

One idea I’d love to see happen is for us to play Notre Dame in Yankee Stadium—at least we’d sell it out—but what a cool venue that would be for a football game. I’d suggest Fenway Park too-but at 38,000 seats it’s just not big enough.

kk5ye@JayPaterno What times of the year do you a break from football and what do you like to do when you have the time?

We have a couple of weeks in the summer when it slows down some, and we really take a break when the school is on Spring Break. Spring Break is the one time where you really aren’t worried about the season approaching like you are in the summer. In my time away from football, I write (working on a book project). I also read a lot to try and learn things like history, or to read great fiction—so I can see other people’s writing styles. I do not golf—it takes way too much time and there is really no thrill in it. I like to bike and in the winter I ski. The picture above is me above the clouds at Whistler in British Columbia. (One note I do wear a helmet now when I ski—it is white with a blue stripe down the middle).

feetforlove@JayPaterno other than recruiting and doing the Nike Camp, what else do the coaches do this time of the year?

Even though we just finished spring, I am still looking at tape of our opponents whenever I get the chance. I am constantly tinkering with new ideas and/or plays and/or formations to best utilize our talent based on what we’ll see this fall. I also look at as much NFL tape as I can and we steal some ideas—and then improve them to best fit what we do.

Bad5052@JayPaterno I know defense is scrap's-- R we going to play more man cov. (esp. AJ?). Cant stand the bendbutdontbreak secondary scheme

I am not exactly sure what the entire defensive coverage scheme will be this fall. Much like we do on offense, the defensive staff tries different things out in spring and in the off-season. There is certainly talent in the secondary, but the question is how quickly the cohesion begins to develop among the guys playing there. It is much like the O-lIne in that regard.

ordidge2@JayPaterno does psu do tours of beaver stadium and re football facilities? Just if I manage to get a trip over this season.

If you get here all the way from England just hit me up on Twitter and we’ll see if we can get you into the stadium.

PamH53@JayPaterno Do you have any relatives visiting Sanibel FL right now? Saw someone last night that looked just like your father.

I don’t have any relatives down in Sanibel—but I have seen some pretty good Joe look-alikes over the years. As Joe has said “Being told you look like me would be a dubious honor.”

ebradlee10@jaypaterno Are you disappointed about no more late season nite games?

Love the Sham-Wow profile photo—props on that. What’s next will someone have a profile picture sporting the Snuggie (the blanket with sleeves). I love night games, Joe P loves night games—we’ve just got to show the world that the greatness of our fans—and the volume of our fans doesn’t show up only at night—our excellence knows no time slot. So this fall be sure to bring your 8 p.m. game to the 3:30 time slot.

AbsolutePigskin@JayPaterno being the favorite to win the Big Ten this year, what team do you think poses the biggest obstacle in the way of PSU this year?

I think Ohio State and Iowa are certainly other teams I’ve seen people picking to win the Big Ten—so I am not sure if we’d be the favorite. The one thing about this conference is that there are no teams that can’t compete on any given week, We certainly have some things we have to get settled in the secondary and on the o-line as well as DE and in the WR corps—before I would say that we’d be anyone’s favorite. The talent is there but we’ll have to see how it develops.

kjn109@JayPaterno Jay, who are some of the kids on the team who don't get headlines but are remarkable in 1 way or another (off-field too)?

I think what Brett Brackett has done organizing the Lift For Life is an amazing thing. They may raise in excess of over $100,000 this summer for kidney cancer—and it is all run by student-athletes and he is kind of the guy who runs it on our team. But there are a lot of guys who are involved in that. If you are in town for Arts Festival they are having the Lift For Life on that Friday—which I think is July 10th.

SpecialFans@JayPaterno How 'bout bringing Special Spectators 2 PSU? We give seriously-ill kids the complete CFB experience. IL, IN, MN, NU PU are in.

Get me some details and I’ll see what I can do.

lendamico@JayPaterno Just graduated the best class of WR in school history. How are Zug, Brackett and co. going to replace that production?

We won’t have three guys as dominant as those three guys were. We’ll play a lot of guys and have a lot of depth and you’ll see many guys contributing.

kenhesser@JayPaterno hey Jay is your brother Scott on here?

I don’t know—he may be lurking….

JAcker2L@JayPaterno JoePa talked about expansion of the Big Ten...3 teams you'd like to see considered?

My three (or four or five) teams for the Big 10—with geography not being a constraint—would be Texas, Miami, Hawaii and maybe Colorado and Utah. All those would be fun road trips for our fans and would be great match-ups. (but I would require that we close the season each year at either Colorado or Utah and I would “accidentally” miss the team flight back, get snowed in and have to ski for a few days).

Thanks for all the questions. I try to answer them as best as I can and I appreciate all your interest in Penn State Football and your support.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

In Praise of Our National Pastime

Yesterday was opening day for my favorite baseball team—The Boston Red Sox. Opening Day is special, a time of hope and the beginning of another year. It marks the change of seasons; we emerge from the cold and dark of the winter and begin to look towards the summer.

Baseball is unlike any other sport we have in this country. They play just about every day. No matter how good or bad your last outing the last game quickly becomes irrelevant. The season has a tide-like ebb and flow with streaks and slumps, wins and losses.

The game is timeless, it binds the generations together. I’ll always remember my first game with my father. I’ll never forget the first game I took my sons to.
Over the years legends long gone remain in our consciousness--Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Robinson, Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, or Hank Aaron.

I commend the Red Sox and Cubs and their commitment to their respective parks; Fenway Park and Wrigley Field. I have been to both parks and have fond memories of each. As I sat in those venerable old parks, the summer sun melted away the cares of my daily life and I was ten years old again sitting next to my Dad. I thought of my father sitting with his father in Brooklyn’s old Ebbets Field.

As the Yankees move across the street this year I can’t help but think of what they have lost. No one will ever stand where Joey D stood. The home of Gehrig, Jackson, and even Bernie Williams will forever be gone.

Although I am a Red Sox fan, I have great respect for the Yankees tradition and all the success they’ve had over the years. I cannot understand how they can turn their back on all the ghosts of championships past….

The 2009 season has begun, it is time to hope that my favorite team will grow from the early days of spring into a pennant contender in the late summer and early fall.

The pitcher will have to stand alone looking for the catcher’s sign with the count full and the bases loaded. The batter will try to fend off the pitches that speed, or slide, or dive, or curve. The infield will play in, expecting a bunt. The vendor will walk the aisles singing “Who wants a Hot Dog?” All will rise for the seventh inning stretch and “Root, Root, Root for the Home team.”

Amid all the changes of the ages the basics of the game have never changed. That is what I love about Baseball. Now, about that Hot Dog…..

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Starting Out

Just a few words about this Blog--this Blog begins (but does not end) with my job as a Penn State football Coach. My interests and pursuits away from my job are varied. I'll write about anything and everything--from my interests in writing, politics, world affairs, literature, music, or even other sports.

There will not really be a set timetable for my writing. In the offseason, my posts will be more frequent. During football season, I will not have the time to be as active with my writing. Hopefully they'll be something of interest here, something that will invite comment and discussion.

When I do post, I will link it via my twitter site so feel free to follow what I'm up to and get the updates there: