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chapter 3 A Joe Paterno–Jerry Sandusky Connection A Look at Penn State Football Coaches and Assistant Coaches “True success occurs if your values and your integrity have prevailed.” —Joe Paterno (2000) By the time Penn State and its coach Joe Paterno won its first national championship in football after the 1982 season, Penn State previously had twelve undefeated seasons dating back a century. But the national championships for Penn State in 1982 and 1986 cemented the legacy of Joe Paterno above all former coaches and extended it far beyond Happy Valley in central Pennsylvania. It might have done the same for Jerry Sandusky, the most visible of Paterno’s assistants. The vast majority of Paterno’s assistant coaches did not wander far from Beaver Stadium, which had been moved to the outskirts of campus by 1960 and was expanded from forty-six thousand to eighty-five thousand seats in a couple of decades. Most seemed satisfied in staying with a winner, and that included Jerry Sandusky. Not only was Sandusky credited with helping Penn State win championships, but the defensive specialist became a local icon back in 1977 when he created The Second Mile to help at-risk young people. Sandusky was what Joe Paterno never became, a fun-loving, effervescent, and outgoing character—with what appeared to be a social conscience for the community. Yet Sandusky yearned for something more than being a nineteen-year assistant coach with a do-good demeanor; he wanted a head coaching position, if not at Penn State after about two decades on the staff—longer than the time Paterno had waited in the 1960s—then somewhere else. An opportunity soon arose. An opening at Temple University existed after Owl coach Bruce Arians’s firing in 1988, when he won less than a third of his games over six years. Joe Paterno tried to make Arians’s misfortune into an opportunity for Sandusky. His unexpected, lavish letter of recommendation was not to get rid of Sandusky as some might claim, but to praise Sandusky for his fine example of life and of coaching. Far beyond the acclaim for any other assistant coach looking for a head coaching position, Paterno praised Sandusky in a letter to the Philadelphia athletic director, Charles Theokas: Smith_text.indd 24 12/7/15 11:11 AM A Joe Paterno–Jerry Sandusky Connection 25 Of all the coaches I have had or been around, I have no doubts that Jerry Sandusky is the best head-coaching prospect. I am not suggesting to you he might do the job. I am telling you he will do the job at Temple, and furthermore, A, He is as fine a tactician and teacher of this game that I have ever known. He is a strong motivator, a tireless worker, and he has a marvelous character with an impeccable lifestyle. B. He knows how to get people to do things. He is a wonderful organizer and he has put together a program here called The Second Mile, which started from nothing. Jerry was able to get many of the business people in this town involved in it and they have become very active in his efforts on behalf of unfortunate, young boys. Some of the people on his Board have largesize egos and Jerry has been able to get them to work together enthusiastically and constructively, and they have really done a marvelous job. Jerry’s Second Mile work is moving out throughout the State, and he has an operation in the City of Philadelphia. Paterno concluded his high praise for Jerry Sandusky, stating that he had the ability to put together the program, the ability to motivate people, the ability to sell the program, the role model he is, his ability to identify with the needs of young people, and above all, his commitment to human beings. . . . I would very much like to keep Jerry Sandusky at Penn State. Very few people at this institution have committed more to it. Since I have made a commitment to stay here several more years, I do not think it is fair for me to ask him to serve as an assistant. He is too good for that.1 After composing the first draft of his letter to the Temple athletic director, he crossed out what he must have meant as a joke. Paterno wrote that Sandusky “might be almost as good as I am.”2 Jerry Sandusky might have been as good as Joe Paterno...


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