With the last name Paterno, it’s certain Jay Paterno will have strong feelings about all things Penn State.
That was certainly the case Thursday night at the 32nd annual York Sports Night at Heritage Hills Golf Resort and Conference Center. Paterno offered opinions on everything, from Beaver Stadium renovations to James Franklin’s success to his own coaching ambitions.
Paterno was one of several celebrities, including Hall of Famers Bob Lilly (football), Tony Perez (baseball) and Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini (boxing), who took part in an autograph session to close out the evening.
On a new stadium or renovations to Beaver Stadium, Paterno had this to say:
“It’s not like buying a new house and selling your old one to get a down payment on the new one,” he said. “I think it would be a big mistake to build a new one, I really do. I think the fan base would not handle it very well and that’s just the conclusion that I’ve drawn from people who have spoken to me about it. There’s so much history there, why would you want to go away from that?
“I’ve been to the old Yankee Stadium and to the new one and it’s not the same. Lou Gehrig never stood at the plate of the new one. Joe DiMaggio never stood at that plate. But Fenway Park has been renovated, Wrigley Field has been renovated and you can see where Ted Williams and Ernie Banks played. I hope Penn State never loses that. If you build a new one, it’s a whole different place.There’s a lot of talk about renovations (at Beaver Stadium) and I hope we understand we should do it within reason and within our means.”
On Franklin’s record at PSU's head coach:
“Fans are always antsy. It doesn’t matter what you do, and the one guarantee of failure is to try to please everyone all the time. if you go 11-1, they’re going to complain about the one. The fans obviously want to see more wins, but being in that division (the Big Ten East with Ohio State and Michigan) is very tough and it’s going to be tough to move up quickly. It’s a situation where, unless they cut corners, and they’re not going to do that at Penn State, it’s going to take time and I hope people understand and are patient.”
On his own coaching aspirations:
“I’d love to get back into coaching, but it has to be a situation that is right for my family. They take precedence. I’ve had discussions with people, but there’s still a lingering cloud because of what happened in 2011 (with the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal), partly because of what happened and partly because of having the last name Paterno. If somebody hires me for their staff it’s going to be a story and there will need to be an explanation about it, and there’s going to be some questions about it, so I’m realistic about it. But I’d love to get back into it.
“I see some of the guys coaching now that we had great success against, or I’m watching the Super Bowl and I’m trying to coach and my wife says, ‘Enough. Shut up and watch the game. They’re doing OK without you.’ So it’s frustrating that way. We’ll see what happens. But I think it is starting to lift … I’ve talked to a couple of guys in coaching, prominent guys, and they feel like that stigma that was attached is starting to fade a little bit. Tom Bradley (former PSU defensive coordinator) was out of football for two years and I’ve seen him at West Virginia and out at UCLA and he said, ‘You know, Jay, the things I had to go through to get clear to be hired, it’s going to be twice as bad for you because your last name is Paterno and you can’t hide from that.’ So I’m realistic.”
Bob Lilly: Bob Lilly might not be a name young sports fans recognize today, but Lilly is a name baby boomers and older folks will recall as a member of the Dallas Cowboys’ famous “Doomsday Defense.” An 11-time Pro Bowler and Hall of Fame member, Lilly played in the NFL from 1961 to 1974. He was happy to see Peyton Manning win his second Super Bowl on Sunday, when the Denver Broncos defeated Carolina, 24-10.
“As the game grew closer, I was feeling better about Denver’s defense, because some of those guys were getting healthier,” Lilly said. “I was hoping they would win but I was thinking they wouldn’t, but Peyton did a good job of managing the football. The Broncos did what they had to do, they had to stop Cam Newton from running and they pounded him.”
Lilly, 76, still holds a Super Bowl record of his own. In Super Bowl VI, Lilly was credited with a 29-yard sack of Miami quarterback Bob Griese, still the longest sack in Super Bowl history. The Cowboys won, 24-3.
“I remember it well,” Lilly said of the play, where Griese just kept retreating in hopes of avoiding a tackle. “We had a double stunt on. Larry Cole, our defensive end on the other side went first and we both got free immediately. We kind of had him corralled. Griese said ‘You should have got me, there were two of you.’ But I told him that if he was quicker, he could have gotten free, but I was faster than he was.”
Revolution: The York Revolution was well-represented, too. In attendance were former relief pitcher Stephen Penney, a member of the Revolution’s 10th anniversary team. The 25 greatest players in the history of the Revs will be honored at the 2016 home opener on April 28. Penny, who announced his retirement at the end of last season, is the club’s all-time, games-pitched leader. He pitched in 220 games over four seasons.
“The greatest memory I have is the relationships that I built as a member of the team,” said Penney, who works as an analyst for Shipley Energy. “Some of my best friends are ones I met in the last four years. It was real honor to pitch here.”
Penny added he is working on his masters degree from Penn State.
“You really know how to play to the room, that’s for sure,” said Revs’ play-by-play announcer Darrell Henry when Penney mentioned Penn State.
Besides Penney, Revs’ manager Mark Mason was on hand and discussed where he is with this season’s roster.
“I’m about halfway through,” he said. “I’m talking to about 35 guys and every year you start from scratch and figure out who you want to keep and try to fill in the pieces. Having guys like 'Penn,' who played for me, is what makes this experience special. This is my seventh year here and the time goes so fast, but the town has been awesome. It’s a special place.”
Reach George Hammond at email@example.com.