Joe Paterno: 1926-2012


Sadly, the grim reports that dominated the college football news cycle beginning Saturday evening were a precursor to the inevitable but still numbing reality: a coaching legend has passed.

A family spokesperson confirmed to the Associated Press that Joseph Vincent Paterno has died at a State College hospital at the age of 85, just over two months after being diagnosed with a form of lung cancer.  A posting to Penn State’s official Facebook page read simply: “With great sadness we mourn the passing of Coach Joe Paterno…Few have done more.”

Paterno passed away at 9:25 a.m. ET Sunday, and the official cause of death was metastic small cell carcinoma of the lung.

The legendary former Penn State head coach was surrounded by family and friends, who had been summoned to the on-campus hospital when Paterno’s health took a turn for the worse recently.

“It is with great sadness that we announce that Joe Paterno passed away earlier today,” a statement from the family read. “His loss leaves a void in our lives that will never be filled. He died as he lived. He fought hard until the end, stayed positive, thought only of others and constantly reminded everyone of how blessed his life had been. His ambitions were far reaching, but he never believed he had to leave this Happy Valley to achieve them. He was a man devoted to his family, his university, his players and his community.”

A statement attributed to university president Rodney Erickson and the Board of Trustees was released shortly after Paterno’s death.

“We grieve for the loss of Joe Paterno, a great man who made us a greater university. His dedication to ensuring his players were successful both on the field and in life is legendary and his commitment to education is unmatched in college football. His life, work and generosity will be remembered always.

“The University plans to honor him for his many contributions and to remember his remarkable life and legacy. We are all deeply saddened.”

Paterno was born Dec. 21, 1926, in Brooklyn, NY, and, after his playing days at Brown University were complete, was hired as an assistant at Penn State in 1950.  Shortly after the 1965 season had ended, Paterno was named head coach of the Nittany Lions; for the next 46 years, Paterno lorded over Happy Valley as the face of both a football program and a university.

During his nearly five decades as head coach, Paterno accumulated 409 wins, the most in Div. I history; a record 37 appearances in bowl games; and two national championships.  As great of a coach as he was on the field, he was widely hailed as, at least until the events that have transpired since last November, an even greater man off of it, donating millions back to his beloved university and shaping the lives of untold numbers of players, coaches and other football support staff.

The legacy he had built in more than a half a century at the school, however, was threatened — or erased in the minds of some — by the Jerry Sandusky child-sex abuse scandal that’s rocked the football program specifically and the university in general.  Mere days after his former assistant was indicted on more than 50 charges relating to the sexual molestation of underage boys, Paterno was fired by the school’s board of trustees, which declared in a statement that their “unanimous judgment was that Coach Paterno could not be expected to continue to effectively perform his duties and that it was in the best interests of the University to make an immediate change in his status.”

Nine weeks after his final game Nov. 5 — eerily and vaguely similar time-wise to the passing of Bear Bryant after he had coached his last game at Alabama — Coach Paterno is gone.

Our condolences go out to his family, friends and every single person touched by a helluva coach and a great-but-fallible human being who will ultimately be defined by the totality of his life, both the good and the bad.

RIP Coach Paterno.

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Big changes in AP poll, but Ohio State still comfortable on top

Ezekiel Elliott, Cardale Jones

The Ohio State Buckeyes remain atop the AP Top 25 this week, but the Big 12’s top contenders have bumped Michigan State down two spots. No. 2 TCU picked up five first-place votes and managed to stay ahead of No. 3 Baylor despite the Bears getting 10 first-place votes.

No. 5 Utah picked up seven first-place votes and No. 9 Texas A&M received the last first-place vote available. The big mover in this week’s AP poll was No. 11 Florida, with the Gators jumping 14 spots in the poll after dismantling Ole Miss Saturday night. The Rebels dropped from No. 3 down to No. 14. No. 15 Notre Dame fell nine spots after losing at No. 6 Clemson. No. 19 Georgia also tumbled this week, down 11 spots after being blown out at home by Alabama. It was also a rough week for No. 20 UCLA, falling 13 spots after losing to Arizona State at home.

New teams in the AP poll this week include No. 22 Iowa, No. 24 Toledo and No. 25 Boise State. Iowa and Boise State also made appearances in the coaches poll earlier today, but Toledo did not. Memphis appears in the coach spill but is the third team in its own conference in the others receiving votes category, behind Houston and Temple. Memphis tied with division foe Navy in that category as well.

  1. Ohio State (38 first-place votes)
  2. TCU (5)
  3. Baylor (10)
  4. Michigan State
  5. Utah (7)
  6. Clemson
  7. LSU
  8. Alabama
  9. Texas A&M (1)
  10. Oklahoma
  11. Florida
  12. Florida State
  13. Northwestern
  14. Ole Miss
  15. Notre Dame
  16. Stanford
  17. USC
  18. Michigan
  19. Georgia
  20. UCLA
  21. Oklahoma State
  22. Iowa
  23. Cal
  24. Toledo
  25. Boise State

Group of Five update: Boise State still going strong, Navy creating a stir

Keenan Reynolds
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With conference play starting to pick up around the country, we should start to see some separation from some of these Group of Five contenders. The three-headed race in the American Athletic Conference’s West Division should be especially fascinating to watch unfold as Memphis, Houston and Navy are all off to undefeated starts and are a combined 13-0. Over the weekend Navy picked up a nice nonconference win against Air Force, which served multiple purposes of coming one step closer to winning the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy, scored a nice win for the AAC and also knocked the struggling Mountain West Conference down another peg.

Of course, the Mountain West Conference still has Boise State, and the Broncos have been on fire lately. After the setback against BYU in Provo, Boise State has traveled to Virginia to put up 56 points in a 42-point victory and just blanked Hawaii in conference play, 55-0. Boise State is now locked and loaded for a run through the MWC as some of the perceived threats to the Broncos continue to scuffle. A road game to Colorado State is not as imposing as it may have been last fall, and the same can be said for a road trip to Utah State the following week. Air Force might be the biggest challenge left for Boise State in conference play, but that will be played on the blue turf. And let’s be honest for a moment. In the eyes of the selection committee, a 12-1 Boise State team at the end of the season might be difficult to pass on when it comes time to make a call on the New Years Six bowl spot.

That said, Boise State still has some serious competition completely out of their hands. Toledo continues to put together a solid season and has a pair of victoroes over FBS schools just like Boise State (and a road win at Arkansas likely is better than Boise State’s wins against Washington or at Virginia to some). If the Rockets can run the table in the MAC or even suffer one close loss along the way to a MAC title, Toledo may actually be the frontrunner. That, of course, could also change depending on what happens in that AAC West.

Memphis had a close call at USF this weekend but managed to escape with a win. The offense Memphis has rolling will still be a serious challenge in conference play, but pay attention to what Houston and Navy are also doing. Only one of those three will even be eligible to play for the AAC championship, which makes this the best division race to following the Group of Five. In the AAC East, Temple appears to be in good shape after a blowout win in rainy Charlotte this week. The Owls still have a leg up on Cincinnati, and look to have the best defense in the division. Every other team in Temple’s division has already lost at least one game.

Now with one week of October football under our belts, here is how I would rank the current Group of Five contenders at this moment if I had a seat on the College Football Playoff selection committee.

  1. Toledo: Still owns the best victory over a P5 school in Arkansas
  2. Memphis: Offense still scary despite tight one at USF, gets Ole Miss next after a bye.
  3. Temple: Wins against Penn State and Cincinnati look a little better now, could be undefeated when Notre Dame comes to Philly
  4. Boise State: The best one-loss team in the Group of Five field and surging, but how much will MWC hold Broncos back?
  5. Navy: Midshipmen letting Keenan  Reynolds do his thing, just beat Air Force by 22. Big win for AAC, tough loss for MWC

On the radar: Houston just misses my cut for now, but could easily work into the mix any given week. Keeping an eye on Western Kentucky, who plays LSU later this month. I’ll keep taking a flyer on Bowling Green but with two losses that leaves the Falcons with plenty of ground to make up. Not impossible, but certainly in need of some help in other places. Falcons also need to get by Ohio, who just barely puts a blip on the radar as well. Sorry Sun Belt. I just don’t see it happening yet.