Joe Paterno

Michigan Radio sports commentator John U. Bacon says the University of Michigan and Michigan State University are inadvertently benefiting from sanctions handed down against Penn State today.  

When an 85-year old man dies, you cannot call it a tragedy.  Sad, yes, but tragic, no.  

But Joe Paterno’s passing might be an exception.  Born in Brooklyn in 1926, he enrolled at Brown University, where he played quarterback. He still holds a school record -- for interceptions -- with 14. 

After graduating, Paterno was supposed to go to law school, but instead followed his coach, Rip Engle, to Penn State.  

His father was beside himself.  “For God’s sake, what did you go to college for?”  That was 1950.  62 years later, that’s where Joe Paterno died. 

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College football coaches are far from the richest people in sports, but they could be the most powerful.  That might seem far-fetched, but not to the disciples of Bear Bryant, Woody Hayes, and Tom Osborne, among others, who rose to become almost spiritual leaders at their schools.   

At University of Michigan President James Duderstadt’s retirement banquet in 1996, he said being president wasn’t easy, but it came with some nice perks.  He even got to meet the man thousands of people considered God.  “No,” he said, “not Bo Schembechler, but the Dalai Lama.”

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A student riot erupted this week at Penn State following the firing of the university’s longtime coach, Joe Paterno. He was fired after details surrounding alleged child sex abuse emerged involving the university’s former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White talked with Dr. Cheryl Cooky, Assistant Professor in the Department of Health & Kinesiology and Women’s Studies Program at Purdue University. She specializes in sports sociology. Cooky talks about how we view athletic scandals.