Penn State football coach Joe Paterno has decided to retire at the end of the season, according to a person familiar with the decision.
Paterno will announce his retirement later Wednesday. The Associated Press reported on Paterno’s pending retirement, which has been confirmed by ESPN sources.
Sources have told ESPN that Paterno is planning to coach the 12th-ranked Nittany Lions in Saturday’s home game — their last home game of this season — against No. 19 Nebraska.
For many, this is not soon enough, and it is at least a little difficult to understand why Paterno will be in the stadium this weekend. The burden would appear to be on Penn State to justify why he should be coaching this weekend, rather than on others to say that he should not. Given that most people who’ve watched a Penn State game in the last two or three years probably think that Paterno doesn’t do much during the games anyway, some sort of paid administrative leave for a week seems like a measured, reasonable approach. The program already is in turmoil over the underlying incident regardless, and a decision like that buys the school and the coach some time to get their acts together, something they’ve largely failed to do to this point.
In examining legacies, it strikes me that it must be very difficult for a longtime, successful coach to step away on his own terms. Paterno’s coaching peer, former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, was forced out by his school before he was ready to leave, and Bowden was knocked out of his fairly tight race with Paterno for most career wins as a head coach due to NCAA violations that forced FSU to vacate wins. While the wrongdoing alleged to have occurred in Happy Valley is different in kind from the NCAA violations in Tallahassee, it is worth noting those similarities that do exist between the departures of these two coaches.