If I'm Joe Paterno's agent this week I'm PO'd.
Penn State president Graham Spanier won't take my calls. This is the week of the Ohio State game and if there was ever a time to discuss a new contract, this is it.
We're not talking contract extension, we're talking a contract. After this season, Joe doesn't have one. That is by Joe's choosing, but the coach does a lot of crazy things. God help us if unbeaten Penn State botches an onside kick against the Buckeyes. He'll be limping out of the press box and onto the field for another demonstration.
If this were any other coach, his agent would be hitting up the athletic director and/or president.
What more does my guy have to do? What are you waiting for? Let's get this thing done?
My client has never been hotter, except maybe when he was 77 and Penn State last won the Big Ten.
Not to go Scott Boras on you, but in his 81st year, Amos Alonzo Stagg went 7-2 at Pacific. It was his best record in 20 years. At age 81, my guy is undefeated, contending for his third national championship, and his second Big Ten title in four years.
Unfortunately for my bank account, I'm not Joe's agent. No one is.
That explains why the great coach is working without a net this season. He called the administration's bluff and said he was absolutely fine coaching without a new deal in 2008. Now the pressure turns to Mr. Spanier. Penn State is 8-0. Recruiting is going great with 18 commitments and a top 25-rated class for 2009.
What other coach in the country could do that without a 2009 contract?
This is not about the coach's time spent on Earth, this is about the 800-pound lineman in the room. Everyone knows he's there but doesn't want to admit the obvious: What's going to happen to Joe after the season?
Let's start small. Does he deserve a new contract?
Vin Scully deserves to broadcast the Dodgers until his buttery-smooth voice turns a croak. Don Rickles deserves his own Vegas show until he can't zing anymore. And only two things will be left alive if the big one ever hits -- cock roaches and Keith Richards. (Both live unsanitary lifestyles. Both seem impervious to nuclear radiation. Both are leftovers from a prehistoric era. Rock on, Keith. Oh, and happy 65th in December.)
Whether Joe actually gets that contract isn't the issue. Somebody just needs to give him an atta-boy for this incredible season. "Deserves" is merely an affirmation that he has earned it. You sign Joe to a four-year deal knowing that his career (at least) could end before the contract is completed. You sign that deal because the assistants have been running the program for years anyway. You sign that deal because, if nothing else, it's a lifetime achievement award.
You sign him because you want to delay the inevitable: Identifying the new coach.
He's Gene Bartow, Ron Zook, Bill Guthridge, Gary Gibbs, Ray Perkins, Phil Bengston. All of them directly followed coaching legends. All of them lost their jobs because they couldn't live up to the standard set by their predecessor.
That doesn't mean any of them are bad coaches. For each coach it was a case of wrong legend, wrong time. Gibbs replaced Barry Switzer at Oklahoma, winning 64 percent of his games and getting the program through an ugly NCAA probation. Bartow succeeded John Wooden, went 52-9 and took the Bruins to a Final Four and Sweet 16. He was gone after two seasons.
Sooner or later Penn State is headed down the same road whether the next coach is Tom Bradley or Boo Radley.
The guy to follow Joe can only live up to the standard if he stays 50-plus years, wins 75 percent of his games, donates millions to the school, teaches life skills to generations of young men and wins multiple national titles.
No problem there, right?
You sign Joe because, admit it, he isn't going anywhere. There is a popular opinion that if Paterno wins the Big Ten and/or national title, he'll limp off into the sunset, with a cherry left on top of his career milkshake.
The opposite is true. This strengthens his position. Joe's a junkie. Success will make him believe he can do it again.
Maybe the end won't be pretty. Maybe it will be noble. We'll all certainly be watching.
One thing is certain: If I'm Joe's agent this week I'm storming into Spanier's office with one undeniable fact.
That guy Stagg was a poser.
See Dennis Dodd's blog Dodds and Ends for the rest of the National Notes.