The recent turmoil at Penn State has been disturbing, not only as a Nittany Lion fan but also from a human perspective. What happened was horrendous and my thoughts and prayers go out to the people hurt by this scandal. I can’t even imagine the pain these people have and will go through.
The Penn State University and Indiana University parallel
Having been born in SW Pennsylvania and still having family ties in Pennsylvania, I’ve always been a Penn State football fan. The recent events at Penn State have brought back some memories of the fall from grace of another legendary coach, Bobby Knight. My sister asked me the other day what I thought about the similarities of the two programs. Both Bobby Knight and Joe Paterno were not only legendary coaches but also the face of their respective schools. Scandals aside, I think the impact of the departure of Joe Paterno leaving will be similar to the impact the departure of Bobby Knight had on the Indiana basketball program.
11 Long Years
It’s been 11 years since IU fired Bobby Knigh t and the program is still trying to recover. Love him or hate him, Bobby Knight made Indiana University a national brand and the same can be said about Joe Paterno and Penn State. But maybe Penn State can learn from two mistakes Indiana University made after they fired Knight. First, they didn’t clean house, IU chose to stay in house and make then assistant coach Mike Davis the head coach. Some will say, IU made it to the NCAA championship game in 2002 so hiring Mike Davis was not a mistake. Yes IU made it to the 2002 finals but, from my perspective, it was mostly with players Bobby Knight recruited. Once all the players Knight recruited moved on, the Hoosiers have been mediocre at best. They tried to right a wrong with by hiring Kelvin Sampson, which their second mistake since Sampson arrived at Indiana with plenty of baggage.
Hard to follow a legend
I think the only way Penn State can avoid a drought like Indiana University has had is to hire a high profile coach, but the question is who? Besides being a high profile coach, the next PSU coach has to be one of integrity and willing to ride out the storm. It’s going to take several years to rebuild so the fans and the administration will have to be patient. I can’t think of any college coach out there who would fit the bill, but I can think of two ex-pro coaches who could come in and make an immediate impact; Bill Cowher and Tony Dungy. I know it’s a stretch and highly unlikely but both coaches are proven winners and there is no baggage with either one. No matter who takes over, I pity the soul, it’s almost impossible to replace a legend, just ask Mike Davis.
Elden Hardesty was born a Penn State Nittany Lion football fan and has been an Indiana University basketball fan for close to 40 years.