Wednesday, September 5, 2012

How Long It's Been: Penn State Played Without Joe Paterno As Head Coach

Last Saturday, the football team at Pennsylvania State University opened their season by losing to Ohio University, 24-14, blowing a 14-3 lead, in front of 97,186 people at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania.

That's Ohio University, the Bobcats. Not Ohio State University, the Buckeyes. Losing to Ohio University isn't so bad if you're, say, their conference opponents Central Michigan.  But if you're Penn State, that's not good.

This was the 1st game as head coach for Bill O'Brien, taking over from Tom Bradley, who coached the last 3 games last season, as interim coach after Joe Paterno, for whom he played as a defensive back from 1975 to 1978 and was an assistant coach thereafter, was fired due to his role in the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

So while this wasn't the 1st time in ages that Penn State played without Paterno as head coach, it was the 1st time they played without Paterno as the face of the program since…

December 4, 1965. Penn State went to Byrd Stadium in College Park, Maryland, outside Washington, D.C., and beat the University of Maryland, 19-7. Paterno had been on the staff as an assistant since 1950, under Charles A. "Rip" Engle (shown above, 1906-1983), who had been his own head coach when he was a quarterback at Brown University, the Ivy League school in Providence, Rhode Island.

Oddly enough, after Engle's retirement, and Paterno's hiring as head coach, the next game was also against Maryland, on September 17, 1966 at Beaver Stadium. Penn State won that one, too, in front of 40,911 – then 88 percent of capacity, but 38 percent of what the stadium holds now (106,572 – making the 97,186 crowd 91 percent of capacity).

December 4, 1965. That's 45 years and 9 months.  How long has that been?

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Penn State was then considered a decent college football program, but hardly a national power. The biggest program in the Northeast (if you can call Central Pennsylvania or Central New York State part of America's Northeast) was Syracuse University, which produced great running backs (mostly wearing Number 44) the way Paterno's Nittany Lions would soon begin producing linebackers.

Penn State was not in any league or conference at the time. Of the league they would eventually join, the Big Ten Conference, 9 of the 10 classic teams are still playing at the same location they were then, although their stadiums, some significantly so (as with Beaver Stadium, which only opened in 1960), have been altered and expanded. The exception is the University of Minnesota, which has now changed stadiums twice, having abandoned first Memorial Stadium on their campus on the east bank of the Mississippi River for the Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis, and now the Metrodome for TCF Bank Stadium, built pretty much across the street from the site of the old stadium.

Michigan State, coached by Duffy Daugherty and led by George Webster and Bubba Smith, won the National Championship. Mike Garrett of USC won the Heisman Trophy. Amos Alonzo Stagg, a legend of playing college football in the late 1880s and coaching it up to the 1940s, had recently died at age 102. (Amos Alonzo Stagg Jr., a.k.a. Lonnie Stagg, coached football and basketball at Pennsylvania's Susquehanna University, and lived to be 97. His brother Paul Stagg was also a small-college head football coach, but lived to be "only" 83.)

UCLA was the 2-time defending National Champion of college basketball, and had, a week earlier on November 27, 1965, opened Pauley Pavilion with a game between their varsity and freshmen teams.  The freshmen team won, defeating the team that had won the last 2 national titles and was ranked Number 1 going into the new season. It wasn't even close: 75-60.  But then, the freshman team had Lew Alcindor, who would become the greatest college basketball player ever, and one of the top 10 pro players ever – mostly under the name Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

The NFL had 14 teams, and the American Football League 10.  Merging the 2 leagues was just an idea, and the NFL Championship Game was called just that: "The National Football League Championship Game." Not "the Super Bowl." A few months later, the merger process began, and, for the 1st time since its institution, the NFL Championship Game was not the final competitive game of the season.

There was a pro football team in Baltimore, but it wasn't the Ravens. There was one in St. Louis, but it wasn't the Rams. There was one in Houston, but it wasn't the Texans. The Boston Patriots had yet to move out to the suburbs and became "the New England Patriots." The Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers, Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers and Patriots had yet to win any World Championships. Between them, they have now won 24.

Some of the NFL's founding fathers were not only still alive, but still involved: George Halas with the Chicago Bears, Art Rooney with the Steelers, and Dan Reeves with the Los Angeles Rams – no relation to the Cowboys running back of the same name, later to be head coach of the Broncos, Giants and Atlanta Falcons. George Preston Marshall, the founder and owner of the Washington Redskins, had suffered a stroke and was no longer active in the team's operation, but he was still alive.

Curly Lambeau, the founder and longtime coach of the Green Bay Packers, had died earlier in the year. The Packers' City Stadium had just been renamed Lambeau Field in his honor. Although Candlestick Park had opened, the 49ers had not yet moved into it, so Lambeau Field remains the only stadium used by an NFL or an AFL team used in 1965 that is still used today. Jim Brown was about to retire as the NFL's all-time leading rusher. Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus made their NFL debuts.

In baseball, the Milwaukee Braves were in the process of moving to Atlanta.  There was a team in Washington, but it wasn't the Nationals, and it was in the American League. There was a team in Kansas City, but it wasn't the Royals. Both Leagues were single-division, with no wild cards.

All teams except the Chicago Cubs now had lighted ballparks, but there are only 3 ballparks used then that are still used today: The Cubs' Wrigley Field, the Boston Red Sox' Fenway Park, and the Los Angeles Dodgers' Dodger Stadium. Houston had just opened the Astrodome, the 1st roofed sports stadium, but it was still a few months away from debuting sports' 1st artificial turf field.  None of the NBA or NHL arenas used then are still used now.

On December 9, just 5 days after the Penn State game in question, the Cincinnati Reds traded slugging outfielder Frank Robinson to the Baltimore Orioles for pitchers Milt Pappas and Jack Baldschun and outfielder Dick Simpson. The trade made the Orioles champions.

The defining football players of my childhood? Terry Bradshaw had just led Woodlawn High School of Shreveport, Louisiana into a State Championship game, but lost. Mean Joe Greene was in his freshman year at what is now named the University of North Texas. O.J. Simpson was a freshman at the University of Southern California. Roger Staubach wasn't playing football at all, but serving out his military commitment after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy. Walter Payton was in junior high school in Mississippi, and Joe Montana was in grade school outside Pittsburgh.

The defending World Champions in the 4 major sports were the Dodgers in baseball, the Cleveland Browns (believe it) in football, the Boston Celtics in basketball and the Montreal Canadiens in hockey. The heavyweight champion of the world was Muhammad Ali, who, 6 months earlier, had knocked out former champion Sonny Liston for the 2nd time. However, he was hardly a widely-loved figure – and that would get a lot worse, before it got a lot better.

Current Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien wasn't born yet. Tom Coughlin of the Giants was playing at Syracuse. Terry Collins of the Mets was in high school in Michigan. Mike Woodson of the Knicks and John Tortorella of the Rangers were 7 years old. Rex Ryan of the Jets was about to turn 3. Joe Girardi of the Yankees was just past his 1st birthday. Avery Johnson of the Nets was 8 months old. Jack Capuano of the Islanders and Peter DeBoer of the Devils were not born yet. And, of course, the Nets, the Islanders and the Devils did not yet exist.

The Olympic Games have since been held 4 times in America; 3 times in Canada; twice each in France, Japan; and once each in Mexico, Germany, Austria, Russia, Bosnia, Korea, Spain, Norway, Australia, Greece, Italy, China and Britain. The World Cup has since been held twice each in Mexico and Germany; and once each in England, America, Argentina, Spain, Italy, France, Japan, Korea and South Africa.

The President of the United States was Lyndon Baines Johnson. A little more than a year after an overwhelming election victory, he had, in the preceding months, signed into law Medicare, Medicaid and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He was set up to be considered one of the greatest Presidents in the nation's history. Alas, the previous month, the Battle of Ia Drang was fought, the 1st major land battle fought by U.S. forces in Vietnam.

Harry Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower were still alive. Richard Nixon was a former Vice President, a defeated nominee for President and for Governor of California, and in political exile as a corporate lawyer. Gerald Ford was the Minority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. Jimmy Carter was a State Senator in Georgia, about to run his 1st, unsuccessful, campaign for Governor. Ronald Reagan had just given up acting and announced his 1st campaign for public office, for the office that had eluded Nixon in 1962.

George Herbert Walker Bush was an oil businessman who had been defeated for U.S. Senator from Texas, and would soon run for the House of Representatives. His son George was a sophomore at Yale University. Bill Clinton was at Georgetown University, and Hillary Rodham was at Wellesley College. Al Gore had just started at Harvard University. Joe Biden had just entered law school at Syracuse University. Mitt Romney had just entered Stanford University, although he would leave it to go on a Mormon mission; when he resumed his undergraduate studies, it was at Brigham Young University. His father, George Romney, was Governor of Michigan. Barack Obama was 4. Michelle Robinson was about to turn 2. Paul Ryan was not born yet.

The Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania – like Massachusetts, Virginia and Kentucky, the Keystone State officially calls itself a "Commonwealth" rather than a "State" – was William W. Scranton, who is still alive at age 95.  (There are 2 former Governors who are older: John Anderson Jr. of Kansas is a few months older, and Raul Castro of Arizona is 96.)

Current Governor Tom Corbett was in high school. Pennsylvania's U.S. Senators at the time were Hugh Scott, later to be Senate Minority Leader, and former Philadelphia Mayor Joseph S. Clark. The current Senators? Bob Casey Jr. was 5 years old, and Pat Toomey had just turned 4. The Mayor of Philadelphia was James Tate, and of Pittsburgh Joseph M. Barr. The current holders of those offices are Michael Nutter, who was 8; and Luke Ravenstahl, who wasn't born yet.

The Governor of New York was Nelson Rockefeller. John Lindsay had just been elected Mayor of New York City, to replace Robert Wagner Jr., the Mayor who let the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers get away. The Governor of New Jersey was Richard J. Hughes, newly elected to a 2nd term.


There were then 25 Amendments to the Constitution. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the bill creating Medicare and Medicaid had all become law within the past 17 months. But there was, as yet, no Fair Housing Act, no Environmental Protection Agency, no Title IX and no legalized abortion. The Stonewall Riot was 3 1/2 years away. The last Justice then on the U.S. Supreme Court to still be serving was former football star Byron "Whizzer" White, who retired in 1993.

UNICEF, the United Nations' Children's Fund, had just been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The Pope was Paul VI. The current Pope, Benedict XVI, then Father Joseph Ratzinger, was teaching at Germany's University of Münster. There were still living veterans of the Spanish-American War, the Boer War, the Mahdist War, the Boxer Rebellion, and Canada's Northwest Rebellion.

Canada's Prime Minister was Lester Pearson. Elizabeth II was Queen of England -- that still hasn't changed -- but she was just 39 years old. Britain's Prime Minister was Harold Wilson. There have since been 9 Presidents of the United States, 8 Prime Ministers of Britain and 4 Popes.

The English Football League season that was underway would be won by Liverpool, and the FA Cup by their neighbors and rivals, Everton. Internazionale Milano, a.k.a. Inter Milan, won their 2nd straight European Cup, defeating Benfica of Lisbon, Portugal, 1-0.

Major novels of 1965 included Dune by Frank Herbert, Hotel by Arthur Hailey, Georgy Girl by Margaret Forster, and the last full-length James Bond novel by Ian Fleming, The Man With the Golden Gun. Truman Capote published In Cold Blood, and Alex Haley published The Autobiography of Malcolm X. 


Mario Puzo had just published The Fortunate Pilgrim, but his publisher told him it would have made more money if it had more Mafia references. This inspired him to write The Godfather -- which the same publisher rejected. Stephen King had just entered the University of Maine, and Comics Review had just serialized his 1st published story: "I Was a Teenage Grave Robber." George R.R. Martin was a senior in high school. J.K. Rowling was 4 months old.

No one had yet heard of Alex Portnoy, John Rambo, Spenser: For Hire, George Smiley, The Punisher, Rocky Balboa, T.S. Garp, Arthur Dent, Jason Bourne, Hannibal Lecter, Celie Harris, Kinsey Millhone, Jack Ryan, Forrest Gump, John McClane, Alex Cross, Bridget Jones, Robert Langdon, Bella Swan, Lisbeth Salander or Katniss Everdeen.

A week after the Penn State game in question, the Bond film Thunderball would premiere, with Sean Connery. Other films then in theaters included Doctor Zhivago, For a Few Dollars More (the 2nd film in the Sergio Leone & Clint Eastwood "Man With No Name Trilogy"), A Patch of Blue, A Thousand Clowns, the original version of The Flight of the Phoenix, the Elvis Presley film Harum Scarum (definitely not one of The King's better efforts), Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, Invasion of Astro-Monster, the Disney film That Darn Cat! It was the Sixties.

The 1965-66 American television season was the 1st in which most shows were now in color, although only about 1/3rd of American homes had color TV sets. Shows that debuted in that season included several fantasy shows: Batman (with Adam West cast as the 1st live-action Caped Crusader since 1949), Get Smart, Lost In Space, I Dream of Jeannie, My Mother the Car, The Wild Wild West and Dark Shadows. Also I Spy (with Bill Cosby as the 1st black star of an American TV series – ironically for the great comedian, in a mostly serious role), Run for Your Life, The Big Valley, the soap opera Days of Our Lives, the original version of The Dating Game, and the rock music shows Hullabaloo and Shindig.

The 1st TV special based on the Peanuts comic strip, A Charlie Brown Christmas, first aired. But Superman was still in a long interregnum between the 1959 death of George Reeves and the 1973 Super Friends cartoon version voiced by Danny Dark.

On the TV satire series BBC-3, theater critic Kenneth Tynan spoke the word "fuck" on the air during a live broadcast, possibly the 1st person to do so anywhere in the world. The BBC formally apologized for this.

Robert Kardashian was a senior at USC, Bruce Jenner was in high school in Sleepy Hollow, New York (at the time, no one was concerned about his head), Kristen Houghton (the future Kris Kardashian and Kris Jenner) was 10 years old, and none of them had met each other yet.)

The day of the game, The Rolling Stones had released the album December's Children (And Everybody's), including "Get Off My Cloud," "As Tears Go By" and their cover of "Route 66." It was only the 3rd-most important album released by a British band that weekend: The day before, The Beatles released Rubber Soul, and The Who released My Generation

Motown's Supremes, Temptations, Miracles and Four Tops had all released albums the previous month. So had The Beach Boys, The Yardbirds, The Kinks, The Lovin' Spoonful, and James Brown, none nearly as significant as Rubber Soul or My Generation

The Number 1 song in America was The Byrds' version of Pete Seeger's adaptation of King Solomon's words, as taken from the Bible's book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3, Verses 1 to 8: "Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)." The Four Seasons nearly hit Number 1 with "Let's Hang On!" but bass singer and bass guitarist Nick Massi left the group. Frankie Valli, pianist Bob Gaudio and lead guitarist Tommy DeVito would replace him with Joe Long, meaning that, like the Beatles, the Seasons would have a lefty on bass.

Frank Sinatra had just released September of My Years, including "It Was a Very Good Year." Bob Dylan was recording Blonde On Blonde, and, having recently left Joan Baez, married Sara Lowndes, who soon gave birth to their son Jakob. Reggie Dwight was leading a band named Bluesology, and backing up American rhythm & blues groups as they toured Britain; soon, they would begin backing singer Long John Baldry, and Reggie would take his stage name from him and bandmate Elton Dean: Elton John. Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen were juniors in high school. Michael Jackson and Madonna were both 7 years old.

Inflation has been such that what $1.00 bought then, $7.28 would buy now. A U.S. postage stamp was 5 cents, and it had just been announced that a New York Subway token was going to rise from 15 to 20 cents. The average price of a gallon of gas was 30 cents, a cup of coffee 36 cents, a McDonald's meal (McDouble cheeseburger -- no Big Mac yet -- fries and shake) 75 cents, a movie ticket $1.09, a new car $2,650, and a new house $21,700. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed the day before at 946.10.

There were computers, but they weren't laptops. Or desktops. Or personal. The idea of having a computer in your home was ridiculous. In December 1965, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Tim Berners-Lee were all 10 years old. My mother was working in an office building on Broad Street in Newark at this time, and she told me that, in that building, a computer took up an entire floor. Supposedly, it was around this time that a moth flew into a room with a computer in it and shorted out the circuitry, resulting in the expression "computer bug." While there is no doubt that something like this happened many times, the term "bug" for a problem with a machine dates back to the 19th Century.

The tallest building in the world was the Empire State Building. Putting a man on the Moon was still a goal. There were no mobile telephones, unless you count phones in cars and on boats, which had to be connected with land lines via radio operators. Liver and kidney transplants had been done, but not heart transplants. The term "hippie" still mean "jazz musician."

The Soviet Union launched Venera 3, which would land on Venus the following March, becoming the 1st Earth spacecraft to land on another planet. France joined America and the Soviets as the 3rd nation to launch a satellite, Asterix-1. Just 3 days later, Canada became the 4th, with Alouette 2Gemini 6 and Gemini 7 performed the 1st controlled rendezvous in Earth orbit.

In the late Fall of 1965, Joseph Mobutu launched a coup in the Congo, eventually changing his name to Mobutu Sese Seko and that of his country to Zaire. Rhodesia declared itself not only independent from Britain, but an apartheid state like neighboring South Africa. Ferdinand Marcos was elected President of the Philippines for the 1st time, Charles de Gaulle that of France for the 2nd and last time.

In America, a blackout struck the Northeastern U.S. during the evening rush hour, lasting 13 hours.  The New York Police Department claimed it was the lowest crime night since they began keeping records. The Pillsbury Doughboy first appeared in a TV commercial. Man of La Mancha, based on Don Quixote, a role played by Richard Kiley, opened on Broadway. Craig Breedlove became the 1st man to drive faster than 600 miles per hour.

Henry Wallace, and W. Somerset Maugham, and Branch Rickey died. Cris Carter, and Katarina Witt, and Ben Stiller, son of the husband-and-wife comedy team of Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, were born.

December 4, 1965. Penn State last played a game without Joe Paterno as permanent head coach.  Now they are doing so again.

It will be a while before they are a national football power again.  But before that happens, they may regain their honor.

1 comment:

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