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The fatal flaw in Jay Paterno's lawsuit against Penn State

Jay Paterno's lawsuit overstates the sway he has in college football coaching circles.  (USATSI)
Jay Paterno's lawsuit overstates the sway he has in college coaching circles. (USATSI)

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Jay Paterno's lawsuit against Penn State is a 41-page joke, a waste of time that reads like a ninth-grader's essay, where the kid tries to beef up an argument that has no legitimacy, no intellectual backing at all, by writing hot air and rewriting Wikipedia and hoping the teacher doesn't notice.

The teacher always notices.

Jay Paterno's lawsuit in excess of $1 million against Penn State -- in which the mother of all daddy's boys has decided it's Penn State's fault that he can't get a job at a school where Daddy isn't calling the shots -- meanders all over the place because at its core there's nothing there.

The lawsuit, which includes another former Penn State assistant by the name of Bill Kenney -- Ever heard of him? Me neither. The defense rests -- is a hot take and hot air and a stroll from State College to the NCAA offices in Indianapolis to the January 2012 press conference where Bill O'Brien was hired at Penn State, and it finds the time to visit some La-La Land in which Jay Paterno was once a rising star in the coaching business, a place and time I assure you never existed.

Jay Paterno's lawsuit kills several trees to rehash in detail the NCAA's duties and role and jurisdiction, and NCAA president Mark Emmert's letter to Penn State, and the injustice of the NCAA's infamous Consent Decree that punished Penn State for the Jerry Sandusky scandal, and the failings of the Freeh Report, and all sorts of Sandusky stuff that Paterno Truthers will tweet about with huzzahs while the court shakes its head and gets to the only part of the lawsuit that matters.

This sentence right here:

"Before the execution of the consent decree, [Jay] Paterno was a top candidate for open head coaching positions at comparable universities."

Name one, Jay Paterno. That sentence implies more than one -- comparable universities, plural -- but I'll make it easy on you: Name one. Give us one school, one "comparable university" to Penn State that decided "Paterno was a top candidate for [its] open head coaching position."

One school. Just one.

The part about the other Penn State coach who lost his career after the Sandusky scandal, a man named Bill Kenney, lists more than 10 schools and NFL franchises that had openings and that Kenney would have liked to consider. The lawsuit actually names three football teams that interviewed Kenney for a job -- New York Giants, Indianapolis Colts and the University of Massachusetts -- but laments that, alas, none would hire him.

For Jay Paterno, the rising star who was a top candidate for open head coaching positions at comparable universities? It doesn't mention one school that regarded him so highly. Not one. Because while lawsuit filings can dabble in untruths and exaggerations and hot air and Wikipedia pages and whatever else it takes to fill 41 pages when a single tweet would suffice, what a lawyer cannot do is put enough details behind those untruths and exaggerations to expose them for the lies they are.

And so for 41 pages you can read, as I did, about the temerity shown by Penn State to "terminate the plaintiffs without even so much as a public thank you for their years of service" and to paint Jay Paterno as a "pariah" and to tie his dismissal with Sandusky, noting that "at the time of the termination, the Sandusky Scandal was in full swing and consumed the nation and all forms of general and sports media outlets with stories of the horrible crimes Sandusky committed as well as the allegations of cover-up by Penn State officials, including allegations that Jay Paterno and other assistant football coaches participated in such alleged cover-ups."

You can read all of that and more, including excerpts from the O'Brien introductory press conference when O'Brien said of his new staff -- the Jay Paterno lawsuit highlights and underlines this part, for emphasis -- "This is a staff made up of men who care about the mission of Penn State University and being successful on and off the field. It is also a staff of winners."

Because as the Jay Paterno lawsuit would have us believe, that sentence from O'Brien wasn't about O'Brien or Penn State or his new staff at all. It was about the previous staff, guys who didn't care about the mission or about being successful off the field. The last staff, O'Brien was really saying, was a staff of losers.

Anyway, that's the kind of silliness in the 41-page Jay Paterno lawsuit, but not one word is devoted -- not one -- to the comparable universities that decided Jay Paterno was a top candidate before all hell broke loose at Happy Valley. Because that one school doesn't exist. Because Jay Paterno's reputation in coaching circles is a joke, which I've known as far back as 2002 when I was at The Charlotte Observer and Easton, Pa., native Chuck Amato was at North Carolina State and the Wolfpack were 11-3 and so I was sniffing around Penn State to see if Amato might be a candidate to replace aging Joe Paterno. First of all, no: I learned Amato wasn't going to be a candidate to replace Joe Paterno. But second, and more interestingly, neither was Jay Paterno. In coaching circles and administrative circles and even college football media circles, Jay Paterno was not highly regarded. At all. He was daddy's boy. That's what he was, and that's all he was.

A dozen years later Paterno has filed a lawsuit that presents himself as a star in the coaching business whose career was taken down by "a civil conspiracy" of "concerted actions," and so I got back on the horn this week and called coaches and administrators and media people, and this is what I learned about Jay Paterno in 2014:

Still a joke. Still Daddy's Boy. Not a top candidate to be a head coach at any comparable universities, though that didn't stop Jay from trying. He applied at UConn and James Madison, "where he had worked earlier in his career," the lawsuit notes, and couldn't even get an interview.

Jay Paterno coached wide receivers and tight ends at UConn for one season, in 1993, when it was in the Yankee Conference. He was quarterbacks coach at James Madison in 1994. According to the lawsuit, that made him a logical head-coaching candidate nearly two decades later at both schools, because it's like I said: Lawsuits are exaggerations and half-truths and even non-truths.

They are also omissions.

Nowhere in the 41-page lawsuit does Jay Paterno's legal team show the only serious thing he has tried to do since being let go by Penn State -- running for Pennsylvania lieutenant governor. The lawsuit doesn't mention it, because that candidacy showed Jay Paterno as an incompetent.

According to another candidate, Jay Paterno couldn't enter the Democratic primary in the right way by getting signatures from 1,000 registered party voters. Paterno definitely couldn't withdraw from the race correctly, missing the deadline and having to request a court order to pry his name from the ballot.

The guy's not very good at stuff, is my point. Is he good at coaching football as an assistant? Sure, I guess, when the head coach is an all-time great. A brilliant head coach like Joe Paterno covers up for a lot of lesser staff members like Jay Paterno.

But in the world of Jay Paterno, he was fired at Penn State not because that's what schools do to assistant coaches after the head coach is removed. He was left off Bill O'Brien's staff not because new head coaches prefer their own people. He isn't a head coach today not because he was a legacy hire from Day One who never distinguished himself as a position coach under Daddy. No, Jay Paterno was put out of work and remains out of work because of "a civil conspiracy" of "concerted actions."

"Before the execution of the consent decree, [Jay] Paterno was a top candidate for open head coaching positions at comparable universities."

Name one comparable university, Jay.

Name one.

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