Blue White Illustrated

December 2021

Penn State Sports Magazine

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Page 29 of 67

3 0 D E C E M B E R 2 0 2 1 As speculation swirls around James Franklin's future, Penn State followers are reminded that change is the only constant in college football I n January 1995, fresh off one of the best seasons of his long college coaching career, Joe Paterno was ap- proached with an astonishing offer. Would he be interested in leaving Penn State to take over the football program at Miami? The Hurricanes had just parted ways with Dennis Erickson amid an on-field downturn and allegations of rampant off-the-field misbehavior by players, and the school's administration was looking for a coach who could fix both of those problems. Paterno was at the top of their wish list. He was 68 at the time and had just completed his fifth undefeated season with the Nittany Lions, a year in which his team won the Big Ten title, defeated Oregon in the Rose Bowl and finished No. 2 in the national rankings. Paterno was friends with a university trustee named Nick Crane, whom he had gotten to know back when Crane was scouting Penn State games for the Or- ange Bowl. Crane was also on Miami's search committee, and after talking it over with the school's athletics director, he gave Paterno a call. Crane's pitch to Paterno was that Mi- ami offered him something the Nittany Lions couldn't: a new challenge. Pa- terno had built PSU into a powerhouse with a pair of national championships and a succession of major bowl appear- ances. Could he do the same somewhere else? It was an audacious play, a moon shot, really. But there was something even more surprising than the school's ap- parent belief that it could woo a coach who had been on Penn State's payroll since 1950, and that was Paterno's re- sponse: Let me think about it. According to an account that ap- peared in the South Florida Sun Senti- nel months later, Paterno told Crane he wanted to meet in person at the Super Bowl, which was set to take place at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami on Jan. 29. That's ultimately what derailed the Hurricanes' efforts. They couldn't wait that long. The Super Bowl was only three days before national signing day, and they needed to have a new coach in place well before that date to keep their class from scattering. So rather than continue pursuing Paterno, they hired Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Butch Davis. By the time the story came to light the following summer, it already had a half- remembered, barely believable quality to it. At that point in his career, Paterno had been head coach at Penn State for M AT T H E R B | M AT T @ B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M Franklin is only the fourth head football coach Penn State has had since 1950. He was preceded by Rip Engle (1950-65), Joe Paterno (1966-2011) and Bill O'Brien (2012-13). PHOTO BY STEVE MANUEL The Uncertainty Principle

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