Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Will Penn State football ever be relevant again?

The Pennsylvania State University Nittany Lions are one of the most storied college football programs in the country. In November 2008, they became just the sixth school to register 800 wins, after a victory against Michigan State. However, recent child molestation allegations against former assistant Jerry Sandusky have rocked the program and the school, resulting in the most significant loss in school history... a loss that had nothing to do with a result on the field. By now, anyone with a television or a computer knows the name Jerry Sandusky. He was an assistant for 30-plus years under long-time head coach and Pennsylvania icon, Joe Paterno. Sandusky resigned in 1999 after PSU's 24-0 win over Texas A&M in the Alamo Bowl. He was carried off the field by the players and treated as a hero. His resignation seemed a bit mysterious and pre-mature. After all, Paterno was aging and many university officials had grown tired of the team's struggles. Penn State was still winning but not with its usual dominance. Sandusky seemed like a likely successor but that never happened and Paterno continued to remain as head coach. Flash forward to the present day, where the former assistant finds himself facing 40 counts of sexual abuse over a 15-year period. Although Sandusky has yet to go to trial, several university officials and coaches have been either jailed, fired, or placed under intense scrutiny for not properly addressing the situation and virtually covering up a scandal in fear of hurting the nearly pristine image of the university and its football program. Pretty disgusting if you ask me. With all of the controversy and flat out incompetence, the university had no choice but to fire Paterno, despite the fact he'd been coaching their for 45 years. But as they say, the show must go on. And there's no way a school with 827 wins and two National Championships is gonna stop playing football. Talks of suspending the program for a couple of years have surfaced but right now... its only talk. Whatever they decide, I have a solution that would help not only the Nittany Lions football team but the school and the entire community of Happy Valley, as a whole. Hire Herman Edwards as the next football coach. If you follow football, you know that Edwards is an energetic and passionate football analyst seen frequently on ESPN. Edwards played in the NFL from 1977-1986 for three teams, most notably the Philadelphia Eagles, where he was active for 135 consecutive games. After his playing days he moved into the coaching ranks, eventually landing head coaching gigs with the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs. But if you know Edwards, football doesn't tell the complete story. His father was an African American WWII and his mother was German. He graduated from San Diego State with a degree in Criminal Justice. Upon graduation, he helped out a great deal in Monterey County (CA) promoting the Special Olympics, helping to educate the local area on disabled athletics. Edwards is a visionary and an exceptional leader. That's the type of commitment and dedication needed at Penn State. He's also a motivational speaker and the kind of person an incoming recruit would instantly gravitate to. More importantly, he'd make a great impression on a recruit's parents and make them feel as if they could trust not only Edwards but the university again. Although his playing days are long over, he still commits himself to working out in the gym at 5 am, six days a week. And during his coaching days, he didn't wear gymshoes on the sideline... he wore dress shoes, polishing them before each game. That's the kind of dedication Penn State could be proud of. The university is also known for stellar academics exceptional student athletes, as the football team posted the highest graduation rate (89%) of any team in the AP Top 25 poll. His "firm but fair" attitude and work ethic would help maintain that tradition. The hiring of Edwards might not be the best long-term solution. It might not even be an immediate solution, at least in terms of wins and losses. However, Edwards outstanding character would be a tremendous step in the right direction. His hiring would prove to be much more than a game on the field. It would be more reflective on the game of life, which when you really think about it... it isn't a game at all.

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