Big Ten coaches urge their saddened teams to soldier on

Anthony Maggio and

A week after the tragedies on the East Coast, Big Ten football coaches are trying to get their minds back on the sport they love.

Penn State coach Joe Paterno, for one, was deeply saddened by the events which took place. In his 52nd year in State College, Paterno has seen almost everything.

Yet JoePa believes what happened last week can only be compared to one thing – Pearl Harbor.

“You’re so sorrowful and you’re so proud,” Paterno said. “You feel so good about the leadership of the people in New York City, and the leadership the President is giving us. You’re proud to see so many people joining hands wanting to help each other. You feel so good about being an American.

“Being older than most of those people, I realize the path we’re going to have to take is not going to be an easy one. The President has a very difficult job ahead of him. There is going to be a fight for our freedom and we’re going to lose some young people. It is a very sad thought. I think it is very comparable to Pearl Harbor.”

Other coaches expressed similar feelings as Paterno.

Illinois coach Ron Turner thinks last weeks events put the word “hero” into proper perspective.

“I think the term hero is thrown around way too loosely,” Turner said. “You look at what those guys (on the East Coast) have done – given their lives and going in trying to rescue other people and risking their own lives while doing it – whether you’re talking about everyday citizens that are out there doing that or firemen who have obviously gone well beyond the call of duty and police officers and everyone out there. Those people obviously are the true heroes. That term probably should be reserved for people doing things like that.”

Many coaches said they spoke with their players about keeping what they do as athletes in perspective.

“If any positive comes out of last weeks events for all of us, it’s going to be a great reminder of what is truly important in our lives,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “One of the lessons of athletics is keep everything you do in perspective, everything in our lives. Never forget what is truly valuable: our health, our family, and our friends. Those are the things that last a lifetime and are really important in our life.”

The coaches also said the tragedies are bringing people closer together.

“I think there’s no question that this tragedy, as often occurs, certainly has been a unifying factor in terms of being able to empathize and sympathize and look at the much larger picture of life and death,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said.

In keeping with people unifying in the wake of what happened, Ferentz said he feels privileged to be an American.

Purdue coach Joe Tiller told his players getting back into action is a chance to represent what America is all about – resiliency.

“We reflected a little bit from a historical perspective on our country’s ability to bounce back and be resilient,” Tiller said. “We said we are a microcosm of society as an athletic team, a competitive team, and our ability to be resilient and bounce back is symbolic of what our country has done over the years. As a football team, we feel like that’s the torch we should be carrying.”


Anthony Maggio covers football and
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John R. Carter covers football and
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