In a tragic turn of events, former Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno died of lung cancer over the weekend at the age of 85. Back in early November the world came crashing down for Paterno as allegations of child abuse by Jerry Sandusky rocked Penn State University with a heavy amount of blame being thrown at the head football coach. It wasn’t too long after that Paterno was relieved of his head coaching duties as his lung cancer started to become far worse than anyone could imagine. Al Golden played three years at Penn State (1989-91) under Joe Paterno. Golden was a two-year starter at tight end for Penn State. Golden, the head football coach at the University of Miami, reacts to the rise and fall of a college football legend, a man who he had tremendous respect for. Al Golden joined WDAE in Tampa with Dan Sileo to discuss his emotions when he found out that Joe Paterno had passed away, all the negative press surrounding Joe Paterno involving the Jerry Sandusky allegations, Joe Paterno not being able to handle the Jerry Sandusky allegations and Penn State contacting him regarding their head coaching position.
How tough is the passing of Joe Paterno?
“Well all I can say to you is I couldn’t even speak about it yesterday. I started getting requests about 10 p.m. on Friday night. I guess it was Saturday night excuse me. They continued all day yesterday. I couldn’t respond. I could not respond. I could not go on-air as I am now. I was asked to go on television shows. I just couldn’t do it. I was basically up all night. It was one of those deals where the guy has meant so much to all of us and what a tragedy the way it ended. In the end I believe he died of grief. I believe he died of a broken heart for how it ended.”
It had to kill you with all the things said about Joe Paterno involving the Jerry Sandusky allegations?
“Well it did because for a half century we would have all loved to live the life that he lived and the impact he had on not just football players, but the Penn State community, the common wealth of Pennsylvania, the game of football, the NCAA. He was a beacon for such a long time in how to do things right and how to teach core values through football and how to win without compromising your values in the community and the class room. Again, in the end that is always going to be a part of the legacy not how it ended, but it is not going to tarnish his spirit and what lives in each and every one of us that are now fathers, husbands, educators, mentors, leaders and even coaches.”
I’m not sure if Joe Paterno was made to handle something as big as the Jerry Sandusky allegations?
“Yeah I just think all of us associated with Coach Paterno in the program and the university, all we are asking for is just due process here in terms of what really transpired. I think in his passing we are going to find good again in terms of what really transpired and we are going to learn from it and all of us. I don’t think there is an administrator out there and I’m talking every high school and every college I don’t think there is an administrator or a coach, a guidance counselor, that hasn’t learned from this in terms of what a widespread problem this actually is and how to go about these things. Again I can’t even imagine what he went through the last couple of weeks. I saw him on December 29th and I thought he looked strong and my wife and I and my kids went over to his house and saw him and saw Sue Paterno. I just expressed to him that his legacy lives in us and we are not going to let him down.”
Did Penn State ever contact you to take the head coaching job there?
“Again this is not the time Dan [Sileo] for me. I came on to talk about Coach Paterno and his legacy. Penn State has a new head coach and is going in a different direction than Coach Paterno and his staff. I’m excited about what we are doing down here at your university, at the University of Miami with our recruiting and obviously what we are building. Again I think this is a day for Coach Paterno and to share stories about how he has impacted all of our lives and again our hearts go out to the families of the victims. This phone call is not about that. I don’t know what went down with that, but there’s going to be a day in court on that and due process with that, but certainly we want to make sure we also honor coach for what he has done for us over the last half century.”