No matter how you slice it, athletics and academics are intertwined at the university level. Thanks to the legacy left by Coach Paterno, the intertwining of athletics and academics has been a blessing to Penn State.
Coach Paterno was a visionary, years
ago before anyone else, he realized that an all sports conference was the way
of the future. Fortunately for Penn State, no one else in the east was able to see that
vision. Had Coach Paterno been able to create an all sport eastern conference,
we would not be part of the Big Ten and becoming a member of the Big Ten has meant
more to Penn State academically than it has athletically.
Unfortunately when most people,
including most of our alumni, think of Penn State being in the Big Ten, they
think of it in strictly an athletic perspective. If we had
become a part of an all eastern conference, stayed independent or joined some
other conference, my guess is that our athletic program would not look much different than it
Academically however it is a whole
different story. From the time we entered into the Big Ten, the quality of the
academics offered at Penn State has soared and continues to soar. There was
immediate pressure to compete with and reach the academic level of schools like
the University of Michigan, Northwestern University and the University of
Chicago to name a few. Being a part of the Big Ten has resulted in Penn State
becoming one of the top academic institutions in the country. It is not simply
the idea of being No 1 on the football field, wrestling mat, etc. it is being
No. 1 in the academic rankings among the various colleges and majors within the
If it were not for the quality of
the many athletic teams that Penn State fields each and every year, if it were
not for the quality and integrity of the football program that Coach Paterno
built over the years, Penn State may not have been invited to join the Big Ten.
With regard to the many accolades you can bestow on Coach Paterno, putting us
in a position to be invited to join the Big Ten has to rank very high on the
When I wrote about the Penn State brand in an earlier blog,
I was referring to the brand as representing both academic excellence as well
as athletic excellence. Excelling in both endeavors makes Penn State a very
attractive University for the best brightest students not just from
Pennsylvania but from all over the country and indeed all over the world.
Coach Paterno meant so much more to this University then
simply athletics, before I would vote to rename the football stadium or to name
the football field after Coach Paterno, I would want to want to take a hard
look at all of the ways Coach Paterno touch this university and make sure that
whatever the University ends up doing to honor this great individual, it truly reflects
all that he has meant to this University.
There is no question that Joe Paterno was Penn State and
Penn State was Joe Paterno.