Joe Paterno's Exit Plan with Penn State

Dan AlexandreCorrespondent IJune 24, 2008

When does loyalty become a liability? It’s a fine line for any business, corporation, or even individual. In the case of Joe Paterno and Penn State, that already thin line becomes oh so thinner.

When is the right time to ask a legend to leave? It would be one thing if his success was solely on the gridiron. In that case it would be simple mathematics. “You used to win nationally, you don’t as much in these later years, we’re going to kindly show you the door.”

That is of course assuming that Graham Spanier has the testicular fortitude to even suggest it might be time that Joe leave.

Fortunately, its not that simple. Paterno, as we all know, meant much more to his university, to his community, and to his sport than can be measured by wins and losses or championship trophies.

His graduation rates have always been outstanding and he consistently runs a clean program. When his players are bone-headed, he swiftly hands out punishment publicly and one can only assume privately as well.

It’s a breath of fresh air that such a character-driven man can be so successful. Sometimes the good guy can win despite the Nick Saban’s and Bobby Petrino’s of the world.

The Penn State brass now have a very delicate decision on their hands. There are very few exiting circumstances that will sour JoePa’s stellar career. Conversely, if Spanier and Curley screw this situation up their own legacies, not to mention careers, could be very much at stake.

Do they fire a man who has not only won 370+ games, built PSU football single-handedly, and been around for a half century but also has done countless deeds for the university itself with one of the lowest salaries in the Big Ten? Or do they allow recruits to continue slipping away, unsure how long or how effectively the legend will coach?

Many fans believe Joe is holding the program hostage. It’s not a decision I would like to make, that’s for sure.

Of course, there are other factors impacting this situation. Recruiting is one as mentioned before. Also not to be taken lightly is the all-time wins record. None of us really know if Joe is hanging on just to outlast Bobby Bowden. Considering that reasoning would go against 50+ years of proven character decisions on Paterno’s part, my opinion would be that is not the reason he is still coaching.

Not only does the University need to be fair with Paterno, they also need to be upfront and honest with Tom Bradley, the man who looks to be his successor. Bradley’s been under Paterno for going on three decades. Considering how fast assistants come and go nowadays, that’s a level of loyalty almost matching the living legend himself.

It all comes back to that original question. When does loyalty become a liability? The man is 81 years old. He’s 29-9 over the past 3 years with bowl wins over 3 quality teams. Sounds like he can still coach to me.

At this point, its not unreasonable or irrational to keep him and this is the last year of his contract. After that, given he’s healthy and still effective they owe it to him to make one year contracts until he wants to call it quits or he’s incapable of doing his job.

This isn’t about nostalgia. This isn’t about money. This isn’t even really about football. This is about giving back to a man who gave you his everything for five full decades. Firing him now goes against every fiber of what Penn State has stood for over the years.

Joe deserves to leave in a good situation. God bless him and may God help Spanier’s soul if he screws up Paterno’s departure.