File it under the heading of unusual for a college football coach to have a wing of the library and an ice cream named in his honor. But, then Joe Paterno is an unusual football coach.
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And, at Penn State, where Paterno has been a fixture for 45 seasons, you can order a cone of Peachy Paterno at the Creamery enroute to what will be the Paterno Library when a major expansion project is complete.
Penn State's victory in the Rose Bowl brought Paterno two fresh distinctions in a career already filled to overflowing with conspicuous accomplishments. It was his 16th win in the postseason, making the Penn State skipper the most successful bowl coach in NCAA annals. He and the late Bear Bryant had been tied with 15 wins. Paterno also is the first man to win all four of the traditional New Year's Day games, something none of the previous participants in the Big Four-Bill Alexander (Georgia Tech), Bob Neyland (Tennessee) and Frank Thomas (Alabama) -- was able to accomplish.
"...Joe Paterno doesn't seem to have changed at all in the nearly three decades he has been patrolling the sidelines as head coach at Penn State," columnist Bill Livingston wrote last year in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. "He espouses the same family values that politicians use as platforms, only he lives them. He has worked in the same leafy hamlet of State College, Pa., for all of his adult life. He is still college football's Don Quixote, tilting at fields of windmills."
Paterno always has concentrated on seeing that his student-athletes go to class, devote the proper time to studies and graduate. He often has said he measures success not by the athletic prowess of a particular team but by the number of productive citizens it contributes to society. A recent TIME Magazine survey of the Top 25 college football teams listed the Nittany Lions No. 1 with a graduation rate of 92 percent for the entering class of 1987-88.
In his extraordinary career, Penn State has produced at least one first-team All-America 26 times. More than 100 of his players have signed with National Football League teams and 17 have been first-round draft choices. Paterno has five former pupils in the College Football Hall of Fame. He also boasts 19 first-team Academic All-Americans, 11 Hall of Fame Scholar-Athletes and 17 NCAA postgraduate scholarship winners.
Witness his recent stint as chair of The Campaign for the Libraries, which generated nearly $14 million in private contributions for the expansion of Pattee Library. Consider other service to the University as Vice Chair of the $352 million Campaign for Penn State and a committee member for the $20 million effort to build the Bryce Jordan Center, now under construction across the street from Beaver Stadium.
"Sue and Joe Paterno are legendary at this institution, not only because of the notable and consistent success of the Nittany Lions, but also because of the values they have espoused over the years," Dr. Joab Thomas said at the time the Board of Trustees' decision to name the new library wing after the first family of Penn State football was announced. "Family, learning, loyalty and commitment are prominent among those values. This new library will stand as an appropriate tribute to all that they have done for Penn State."
Paterno is the lone active coach ever honored by the College Football Foundation with its "Distinguished American" Award, which goes to one "who over a long period of time has exhibited leadership and who has made significant contributions to the betterment of amateur football in America."
The only four-time "Coach-of-the-Year" choice of the American Football Coaches Association, Paterno was the choice of the Walter Camp Foundation, the Football News and the Maxwell Football Club as the outstanding coach in college football last fall. He won the Football Coaches Association nod as District 2 "Coach-of-the-Year" and the Big Ten-Dave McClain Award as the conference's top coach.
Sports Illustrated selected Paterno as "Sportsman of the Year" in 1986, the only college football coach to be so cited. He presented one of the seconding speeches at the Republican National Convention when George Bush was nominated for President in 1988.
"...at the end of their college careers, Joe's players have learned those valuable lessons of character and moral conduct that typify Coach Paterno himself," President Bush said in remarks to the 1991 Football Hall of Fame dinner.
"Throughout my life, I have always had the ability to concentrate on what has to be done and not worry about things I can't do anything about," Paterno has said. "If I can do something about it, I go after it and try to get it done by giving my best shot. If I succeed, fine, but if I fail I put it behind me."
The membership of the American Football Coaches Association has elected Paterno national "Coach-of-the-Year" an unprecedented four times (passing three-time recipients Bryant and Darrell Royal of Texas). In 1986, Sports Illustrated tagged him its "Sportsman-of-the-Year," a distinction never previously accorded a football coach. UCLA basketball mentor John Wooden and Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula are the only other coaches similarly honored.
In 1991, Paterno became the first active coach ever to win the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame "Distinguished American Award."
He recently was the recipient of the sixth annual Ernie Davis Award, presented by the Leukemia Society of America and Merv Griffin's Resorts. The award, which honors the memory of the late Syracuse Heisman Trophy winner, was created to honor football players and coaches "who actively serve mankind and achieve academic and athletic excellence." Paterno is the first college coach to receive the Davis Award.
"He is revered and respected not only as a coach, but also as an educator, hardly the normal label in this trade," sportswriter Ed Sherman wrote of Paterno in the Chicago Tribune. "While some coaches worry about shoe contracts, he gives $250,000 to the University library. He has accomplished all there is in his profession. Any more would be addenda."
Paterno's reputation as an educator is best illustrated by his 15 first-team GTE Academic All-Americans, 10 Hall of Fame Scholar-Athletes and the 15 NCAA postgraduate scholarship winners who have graced his coaching tenure.
"His philosophy was that college was getting an education first....," ex-All-American linebacker John Skorupan said. "I think we always felt we had someone special up there. I was part of the 'Grand Experiment,' that football players can get an education and can talk, that they're not dumb jocks...."
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