Big Ten Lion-Slayers Concern Paterno

Article excerpt

Joe Paterno has won two national championships as football coach at Penn State. He has a record of 247-67-3 in 27 seasons. He has taken the Nittany Lions to 23 bowl games.

Paterno, who is first among active coaches in total victories, is a living legend.

He's also the new kid on the block in the Big Ten Conference.

And that last fact had Paterno apprehensive Wednesday, as coaches gathered for the 22nd annual Kickoff Luncheon at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

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"To tell you the truth, I'm scared to death," Paterno said. "I don't know what to expect. I'm very edgy about this."

Penn State had been an independent since the program's inception. Since the first lgame in State College, Pa., in 1887, the Nittany Lions have amassed a 664-285-41 record.

This school has tradition and history and pride. And it has Paterno, now an elder statesman in college football and certainly one of the most respected figures ever to patrol a sideline.

So what's the problem?

Mainly, it's just a new and different sort of challenge.

On June 4, 1990, Penn State officially joined the Big Ten Conference. There wasn't a vote taken by the football coaches or the athletic directors.

"This represents a move of historic proportions for Penn Staters past, present and future," said Penn State President Bryce Jordan, after learning his school had been accepted by the Big Ten presidents.

"We have joined a family rich in tradition, built upon integrity and with a vision for the growth of higher education and, within the framework of institutional control, the maturing of intercollegiate athletics." J

That was high sounding rhetoric back in June 1990. Paterno didn't have to concern himself much about playing against Michigan, Ohio State, aIllinois and Iowa until 1993.

Penn State began competing in the conference in other sports last year. Now it's time for Paterno's team to join the fun.

"I don't know what it's going to take to be a Big Ten team," Paterno said. "I've worked harder this year than I have in 20 years trying to get ready for it. We're back to 15-hour days."

Having eight new opponents on his schedule and facing the weekly grind of a conference schedule are new challenges. Every conference game will be a war.

"We're not naive enough to think they won't be ready for us," Paterno said. …