Joe Paterno is the game's grand old man for being a big winner while running a straight ship, encouraging diverse interests in his players, giving back to his school and occasionally showing up to games wearing pants with little cartoon whales on them, but his "time has come" status has been a sort of unspoken consensus for most of this decade, at least, since the sudden onset of Penn State's wobbly consistency in 2000. Hence the brilliant 'JoPa Wants Brains!' pastiche, the perfect way to say "he's too old" without disrespecting a statesman by actually saying, "he's too old." Which, clearly, he is.
I don't think that's the case anymore.
A canvassing of a few of the school's 30-some trustees and other significant influence peddlers in the State hierarchy indicates Spanier finally has enough power to make this Paterno's last season in Happy Valley should he so choose, and whether the coach likes it or not.
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Said another person of influence: "As long as I've been around Penn State, which is a long time, it's always been about teamwork. We always said that the university was a team and no one was bigger than the school.
"Now, I see recently where Joe has been asked about planning a successor and stepping down soon and his response is, 'What would I do?'
"What would I do? That's what he says. Well, what happened to this 'team' we always talked about?"
"We've asked the president to come up with a plan for after 2008," said a trustee. "And I'm pretty sure the sentiment is [Paterno] shouldn't coach past 2008.
"Now, the question is, will Joe do the classy thing or will he fight it? I know he doesn't want to be paraded around. But you also have to remember his ego is as big as New Jersey."
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(HT: The Wiz)
Paterno apparently disdains the prospect of a "farewell tour," and he's justified in that. But it looks like he's going to get one in the media, regardless, and he can downplay it, and the university leadership can remain publicly noncommittal. By December, though, bet that Penn State is preparing to name a successor (probably from within, though Spanier wouldn't concede that) or for a power struggle that could get really ugly.