STATE COLLEGE, Pa. More than 30 years ago, former Penn State head coach Joe Paterno claimed he would never retire from coaching because he didnt want to leave college football to the Jackie Sherrills and Barry Switzers of the world.
Paterno ultimately apologized to Barry Switzer, the former coach for the University of Oklahoma and the Dallas Cowboys, but it appears as if Switzer is having the last laugh.
Interviewed by reporters in Oklahoma about the scandal at Penn State, Switzer says that as soon as he saw TV footage of Paterno on his front lawn leading an impromptu pep rally, I knew that it would come to this.
They did the right thing at the university, Switzer told The Daily Oklahoman. The university had to do this, and it was the right thing to do.
Switzer also expressed doubt that Paterno did not know about the accusations against his former top assistant, Jerry Sandusky. For as much time as big-time college coaches spend with their staffs, there are very few secrets.
Having been in this profession a long time and knowing how close coaching staffs are, I knew that this was a secret that was kept secret, Switzer said. Everyone on that staff had to have known, the ones that had been around a long time.
Switzer said the scandal at Penn State is part of a larger epidemic at universities where the size and power of certain sports programs becomes so great that it becomes bigger than the school it represents. Penn State, despite its reputation, was not immune.
I'll tell you how it happens it's the American sports phenomenon, Switzer said. I've seen it happen all my life. We've made coaches and players and athletes more than what we are. It's what happens in American sports. Because of that, they've gotten away with more than they should have.
These students the other night, I watched em Occupy State College, and I thought, They don't understand. If they stopped and thought about how many people were involved and knew this and did nothing, they just haven't lived long enough. And what they've done is try to support somebody the university can't support.
Switzer was the head football coach at Oklahoma for 16 years where he won three national championships. He resigned before the 1989 season when the school was placed on probation for three years for recruiting violations, including two years where it could not make any TV appearances. However, what led to Switzers ouster at Oklahoma was out-of-control players. Before the 89 season, players were accused of rape, a shooting and selling cocaine to an undercover FBI agent.
Clearly, Switzer knows what its like to be run off campus.
In the meantime, Switzer jumped to the Dallas Cowboys where he coached the team to a victory in Super Bowl XXX.
Interestingly, Switzers comments are eerily similar to words Paterno once spoke about a man who fell from grace and was forced out of the job he loved Richard Nixon.
A devout Republican, who famously introduced President George H.W. Bush at the 1988 GOP Convention, Paterno was friendly with every Republican president from Nixon to George W. Bush. As the story goes, Nixon, a diehard football fan, loved to chat with Paterno about football whenever he had the chance.
But at the 1973 commencement address at Penn State, as it became clear that Nixon was involved in the Watergate cover up, Paterno said of the President, How could Nixon know so little about Watergate and so much about football?
In 2011 it has been asked how Paterno could know so little about what was going on within the walls of his football program.
E-mail John Finger at email@example.com.