In the recently released book, “Pride of the Lions: The Biography of Joe Paterno” ($24.95, Triumph Books, linked here), author Frank Fitzpatrick goes into depth and detail about the life and times of the Penn State football coach, obviously not knowing he would be fired from the position Wednesday night.
In flipping through the 256-page bio, there are a few things, when looked at in a new context, that could raise some red flags about the way Paterno ran the program, protected his players, and commanded respect for his position of authority.
There is little, if any, insight about his relationship with or the contributions of former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, the focal point of the child abuse allegations that has led to the events over the last couple of days.
But there is the interesting side note, however, about a time when Paterno nearly moved from State College, Pa., to work at USC.
He was working on the staff of head coach Rip Engle, who guided the Nittany Lions football teams from 1950 to 1965. Engle had turned down offers to go to various NFL teams, and Paterno had also decided to stay loyal to Engle at Penn State rather than take other assistant jobs, particularily with the Baltimore, where Weeb Ewbank, Engle’s onetime assistant, was the head coach.
On page 88 in “Pride Of the Lions,” Fitzpatrick notes:
“In the late 1950s, Paterno had been disappointed when Engle rejected an offer from Southern California.
“Paterno had wanted to go along to Los Angeles. When the head coach polled his eight assistants on how they felt about a possible move there, Paterno was the only one in favor of relocating. Not only was USC a more glamorous name in college sports, but a move to the West Coast would have allowed him to experience a new challenge, a new atmosphere. And from spotlit L.A., he knew, landing a head-coaching job would be a cinch.
“When Engle decided to stay put, (former Penn State assistant J.T.) White recalled, ‘Joe was furious.’”
Engle left after a 5-5 season in 1965, at age 60. Paterno replaced him, taking a $20,000 salary, at age 39.