We all knew the day was coming, but no one could have predicted in this way. Since 1950, Joe Paterno has been a fixture on the Penn State sidelines, and upon entering his 62nd season on the coaching staff, everyone knew that this octogenarian’s days as head coach were growing slim.
However, most images of his departure involved a glorious retirement while living on as fan and legend much like John Wooden at UCLA. A graceful and peaceful passing away, even if sudden, would have been less shocking. But, being fired for allegations of not doing enough to put a stop to former Coach Sandusky’s decade long sexual abuse of children? Wow. The whole situation is surreal – especially for those who admired and respected Joe Paterno as a mentor and leader. Sadly, here we are, three games into the non-Paterno era.
Yet, the Nittany Lions are one win away from earning a spot in the inaugural Big Ten title game. They must face a wrecking ball Badger crew that is two Hail Mary losses from being undefeated and one win away from taking the Leaders Division and earning a Big Ten title game spot themselves. Two days after Thanksgiving, we are all thankful that for at least three hours, a big time football game can distract us all from the State College scandal. On this cool, but soaking wet afternoon in Madison, history was about to be made as Legends Division winner, Michigan State, awaited the winner of this game for the first ever B1G Title game in Indianapolis.
Fans geared up and warmed up with a chili cook off inside the Field House adjacent to the stadium. I got a picture with Badger legend Barry Alvarez at the pre game festivities. He was a bit distracted because he was rushing to get over to the stadium. Can you blame him? Games like this don’t get much bigger. The Penn State defense versus the Wisconsin offense was the story, but the latter made headlines. Once again, Montee Ball and Russell Wilson garnered the spotlight as the Badgers battered the Lions. The steady rain grew colder as night fell, but few in Camp Randall seemed to mind. The stadium remained packed and rowdy as fans stayed to watch the trophy presentation with Coach Bielema and Russell Wilson acknowledging the loyal crowd. On senior day, the veteran Badger players were sent off with a memorable win, and now, Wisconsin is one win away from securing a second straight trip to the Rose Bowl. As Badger fans danced into the fifth quarter, PSU fans had to wonder if their team would even be invited to a bowl game. Interim coach Tom Bradley expressed his hope that the Sandusky debacle would not keep them out of the post season, especially since it did not involve the players whatsoever. Either way, the stench of scandal would hang over this storied program for years to come.