Quinnipiac poll shows overwhelming support for returning the statue of Joe Paterno, the man who turned down Yale before Penn State

By Joel Alderman

The polling institute at Quinnipiac University has found that a large majority of residents of Pennsylvania are in favor of bringing back to the campus of Penn State the seven-foot statue of its iconic former football coach, Joe Paterno. The institute, whose polls are highly respected nationally, interviewed 1,023 men and women in different age categories who live in Pennsylvania, for their feelings about helping to restore the legacy of “JoePa.”

Before he was a coach, Paterno played in the Yale Bowl four times

As a college student at Brown University, Paterno played football and was a substitute quarterback from 1946 through 1949. His coach there was Rip Engle, the same person he was to follow at Penn State.

The Brown teams he was a member of played four games in the Yale Bowl, including two upset wins in 1947 and 1949.

I found a reference to the 1948 game stating that Paterno threw a key pass from the Yale 20. Pass interference was called, giving Brown the ball on the 2-yard line. Brown scored on the next play, and it brought them up to 14-13, before Yale came out with a 28-13 victory.

Legendary Bulldogs coach Carm Cozza may never have ended up at Yale if Paterno had taken the job back in 1965.

Yale offered Paterno the job of coaching the Bulldogs

What makes the Paterno story so interesting for us in Connecticut is that, but for a twist of fate, there would probably have been no scandal leading to Paterno’s departure at Penn State, no statue to write about, and no great coach at Yale named Carmen Cozza.

After the 1964 season, Yale football was left in the lurch by the sudden resignation of Coach John Pont, who left suddenly for Indiana University after only two years in New Haven.

In Rich Marazzi’s book, “A Bowl Full of Memories,” the Joe Paterno and Yale connection is explained this way by Henry “Sam” Chauncey, who was an important Yale administrator in several key capacities.

“I was on the committee that selected Pont and then Cozza. When we hired Pont, Joe Paterno, who was an assistant to Rip Engle at Penn State, was the runner-up. After Pont went to Indiana the same committee was assigned to select a new coach. It was a short search. Half of us were enamored with Carm, but felt we had an obligation to ask Paterno. We didn’t necessarily want him, but felt it was appropriate to contact him since he came in second when we hired Pont.

“(Athletic Director) Delaney Kiphuth and I were in the Carm camp. When Delaney offered Paterno the job, he did so without much enthusiasm. Based on the Yale offer, Engle got Penn State to make Paterno as associate coach, with the promise that he would get the head job when he retired. So Paterno stayed at Penn State, and we hired Carm.”

Prior to then, Cozza was an assistant under Pont. Eventually he became a coaching “institution” at Yale and still lives in Orange, Connecticut.

Paterno’s sad departure from Penn State

Having decided against the Yale job, Paterno took over at Penn State in 1966 and the rest is history, some good and some bad. Ultimately, he was fired in the wake of the conviction of his former defensive coach, Jerry Sandusky, on child molestation charges.

Less than two weeks later, in January 2012, he succumbed to lung cancer at age 85. He also must have suffered from a broken heart.

Away with the statue

The handsome statue of Paterno formerly rested outside of Beaver Stadium. The university removed it in July 2012. Soon after, Penn State was fined 60-million dollars by the NCAA and stripped of the 112 wins during the last three years of Paterno’s coaching career from 1998 though 2011., one of which was technically not Paterno’s, during his coaching days with the Nittany Lions.

A Pennsylvania senator and the state treasurer later instituted a lawsuit against the NCAA to restore Paterno’s legacy. Last month it was settled. As a result, the sanctions against the university were removed and Paterno’s record was restored. Now, “JoePa” is once again the winningest coach in college football. But his statue remains in limbo.

The Quinnipiac poll may indicate how Pennsylvanians feel

Tim Malloy, the assistant director of the Quinnipiac polling institute, said that 59 percent of those polled are in favor of again setting up the statue on the campus in University Park, Pa., with 25 percent opposed. The remaining 16 percent apparently had no opinion.

Malloy concluded, after reviewing the results, that “It appears time heals all wounds, and legends get a second chance. JoePa’s tarnished image may never be totally repaired, but Pennsylvanians seem to be in a forgiving mood.”

The  Quinnipiac poll also found that 64 percent approved, opposed to just 15 percent, to restoring Paterno’s wins to the Penn State football program.

The survey was taken from January 22nd to Feb.1st. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Looking forward

Sometime in the near future the statue may again be displayed on the Penn State campus and there most likely will be a second unveiling. When that happens, there should be closure for Paterno’s fans and for the Paterno family.

Meanwhile, a particular gentleman in Orange, Connecticut, Carmen Cozza, will probably be among those who will appreciate the way things are being resolved to restore the image of the late Joe Paterno, the man whose unwillingness to take the coaching job at Yale led to his own great career.

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