Paterno admits he broke rule

Jerry DiPaola
| Tuesday, June 21, 2011

UNIVERSITY PARK -- Joe Paterno was taking a leisurely stroll on the Penn State campus last week when he did the unthinkable:

He broke an NCAA rule "without even thinking about it," the longtime Nittany Lions coach said.

Yes, even Paterno can run afoul of the many regulations set forth by college sports' governing body.

Passing by Holuba Hall, where several football players were conducting unsupervised workouts, Paterno stopped to watch for a few minutes without speaking to anyone, he said. Suitably impressed, he returned to his office where he reported to the coaching staff that at least one player had looked good and caught his eye.

"You know you broke a rule?" someone said, pointing out that coaches aren't permitted to watch players working out before the start of practice in August.

Penn State spokesman Jeff Nelson said the university will report the incident to the NCAA.

"Our compliance office is aware and will relay the circumstances to determine if there was a secondary violation," Nelson said.

Paterno told the story Monday during a taping of the ESPN program "Difference Makers: Life Lessons with Paterno and Krzyzewski."

Paterno and Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, who have coached collegiate sports for a combined 81 seasons, with 1,301 victories and six national titles, were interviewed by ESPN host Rece Davis about their careers and coaching philosophies. The meeting at Eisenhower Auditorium on the Penn State campus marked the first time the two coaching icons had met each other.

The show will air from 8 to 9 p.m. June 30 on ESPN, with additional coverage on ESPNU from 9 to 9:30 p.m.

Paterno's confession was in response to a question from former New York Times sports reporter and current Penn State journalism professor Malcolm Moran about the state of college athletics.

Krzyzewski chastised the NCAA for limiting coaches' access to student-athletes, calling it "unacceptable."

"The NCAA needs to modernize and revamp the system to keep up with the culture that we have now," he said, referring to limitations on text messaging, emailing and Skyping. "The NCAA needs to give us more time to teach.

"You have to be current and realistic and understand these kids want to be taught and communicated with, as opposed to how people communicate now."

Paterno took the opportunity to push for the return to freshman ineligibility and an increase in scholarships. He also said, "I don't want some (recruit) coming here because someone in town bought him a meal."

Most of the more than two-hour session included Paterno and Krzyzewski throwing barbs and compliments at each other.

Krzyzewski said the statue of Paterno, 84, outside Beaver Stadium should be bigger.

"You are one of the only ones who don't want it torn down," Paterno said.

Asked by a member of the audience how it feels to be an icon, Paterno downplayed the significance of the description.

"What's an icon?" he said. "If an icon means you are good-looking and handsome, I like it."

Both coaches have rejected lucrative opportunities to coach in the pros -- Paterno with the Steelers and Patriots and Krzyzewski with the Lakers. Paterno pointed out he thought he could do "more good" in college.

"But money is money," he said, laughing. "I also didn't take a vow of poverty."

Paterno and Krzyzewski stressed the need to adapt to the new generation of student-athletes without compromising their long-held values.

"You want to be flexible but never lose sight of the great ideal," Paterno said.

Krzyzewski added: "After spending an afternoon with (Paterno), he makes sense, and when you make sense, you don't have to adapt."

Additional Information:

Dynamic duo

Here are some career highlights for Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski:


» 45 seasons

» Two national titles

» Five undefeated seasons

» 401 victories (No. 1 among Division I coaches)


» 36 seasons*

» Four national titles

» 11 Final Four appearances

» 900 victories (two short of Bobby Knight's all-time record)

* -- Including six at Army

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