JoePa still a breath of fresh air at 73

The normal concerns of a 73 year old run the gamut. What time is “Regis and Kathie Lee” on? Where are my teeth? How long has my left blinker been on? Where’s my Viagra?
But typical septuagenarians (70 year olds) aren’t normally worried about signing five-year contract extensions at one of the most storied college football institutions in the nation.
Then again, Penn State coach Joe Paterno isn’t the norm. JoePa just re-upped with the school ensuring he will be the coach through the year 2004.
“As I’ve told people, I enjoy coaching and would like to continue as long as my health will permit,” Paterno said in a statement released Monday. “I look forward to fulfilling this contract and, deep down, to going even longer because I’m excited about all of the positive things that are happening at Penn State.”
College football fans should be excited too. After all, the man is synonymous with the tradition that makes college football so endearing.
You want a resumÇ for success, take a gander down the highlights of JoePa.
Last season was his 34th at the helm for Penn State, (he was an assistant for 16 years before he took over as head coach) and it was just another ho-hum 10-win season. It was the 17th time his team reached double-digit wins.
His all-time record is 317-83-3, good for third place among Division I coaches behind Bear Bryant’s 323 wins and Pop Warner’s 319. It’s conceivable Paterno could tie Bryant in Minnesota on Oct. 7 when the Lions come to town.
When Penn State won the Alamo Bowl, it was JoePa’s 20th bowl victory — the most in college history.
The Lions have won two national championships, had five undefeated, untied seasons under Paterno and have finished in the top ten 20 times.
He’s had a first-team All-American in 31 of his 34 seasons. Two hundred of his players have gone on to play in the NFL, 23 of them have been first-round draft picks.
By contrast, Glen Mason is the seventh different Gophers coach to grace the sidelines since Paterno has been in charge at State College.
But the most impressive thing Paterno has done for Penn State is the $3.5 million gift he and his family presented to the university a year ago.
With the horizon of college football littered with corporate sponsors, corrupt agents, ruthless boosters and vulnerable student-athletes, Paterno is a perpetual breath of fresh air.
He’s still one of the old-fashioned guys. He brings in kids and turns them into men. Good men. You never see a Penn State kid getting $500 in clothes for $12, and you certainly never see his players spending the offseason bribing police officers.
When the regular season ends, Paterno’s phone never rings with offers from schools with coaching vacancies. Although, he is such a nice guy, I’m sure he’d listen just like Mason.
JoePa sees the world through Coke-bottle glasses, and the view is apparently great. Five more years of him stalking the sidelines is just what any college football fan needs. What we don’t need is another unemployed 73-year old.

Michael Dougherty covers men’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]