The letter is 30 years old but it provides a glimpse of Joe Paterno, the humanitarian, champion of fair play and the hard-nosed coach.
In this correspondence to a former player dated July 7, 1982, Paterno admonishes the player for not paying $12.99 in expenses incurred during Penn State road trips to Pitt and the 1982 Fiesta Bowl during the 1981 season. That '81 team finished 10-2, ranked No. 3 in AP, losing only to Miami and Alabama.
The outstanding charges -- according to Joe -- are for “phone calls, room service and miscellaneous charges.” No matter what you think of Paterno's legacy in light of the last couple of years, this letter obtained by CBSSports.com is a slice of Americana and Joe Paterno.
“Since you have finished up your eligibility,” Paterno wrote, “there is very little I can do to make you pay. But you will know and I will know that you owe the money, and when it comes to recommendations or use of our facilities, etc., I certainly feel that your cheating the University of money not due to you will have a bearing on our attitude.”
While $12.99 seems like a small amount -- even adjusted to today's prices it is less than $40 -- Paterno is worried more about the principle. Joe sounds like a collection agency when he says, “Some of you have paid absolutely no attention to letters and pleas to pay these bills.”
“We travel better than any other football team and you should appreciate this and not abuse our desire to treat you first class … but in all cases the principal [sic] is the same – you have taken advantage of an honest effort to treat you well.”
Paterno concludes the letter saying, “Get your bills paid,” and, “P.S. A copy of this letter is going to your parents.”
(As a condition of receiving the letter, CBSSports.com agreed not to reveal the identity of the player.)