During six decades on the Penn State sideline, Paterno has coached in more than half of all the game’s in the school’s long football history, which began in 1887.
Consider this: When Paterno arrived in University Park, Pa., fresh out of college in 1950, Harry Truman was president and Winston Churchill was still Britain’s prime minister. The Korean conflict was raging.
On the gridiron, things were far different than they are today. Army was second-ranked and Princeton No. 6. Penn State was an independent, decades away from joining the Big Ten Conference. H-shaped goalposts were made of wood, and players had single-bar face masks, if any at all.
Despite all that Paterno has done plying his trade in Pennsylvania’s “Happy Valley,” it wasn’t long ago that even the faithful began to think the Brooklyn native may have stayed too long at the dance. Yes, he had led the Nittany Lions to five undefeated seasons, two national championships (in 1982 and 1986), and more bowl wins than any coach in history (35) – this while making generous financial gifts to the university. But the “Grand Experiment” – Paterno’s vision for successfully marrying winning football with academic integrity – appeared to be faltering.