Defenders of Joe Paterno are not necessarily confined to the greater State College area. Missouri Tigers coach Gary Pinkel, just before taking the podium for his debut at SEC media days, definitively stood up for the disgraced Penn St. Nittany Lions coach, who was fired for his part in the Jerry Sandusky story and subsequently alleged to have played an even more disappointing role in the whole thing.
A portion of the transcript of Pinkel's remarks by Steve Walentik:
"Joe Paterno's a friend that I got to know professionally, and you can't take away the greatness of this man. He was a great man. However you analyze this, you can't erase all that this guy's done. You can't do that. Nobody can do that. I think when you come out of such a tragic situation, certainly involving children and the magnitude of this in our country from a media standpoint, I anticipated really what happened. I anticipated that they would do this. You're not going to sit back there and say, ‘Well, just things happen.' You're not going to do that. They're going to be firing, and people, they're going to make statements and they're going to point fingers, and that's what I anticipated a little bit. But he was a great man, a good man. I'm sure he would, maybe if he [could] do it over again he would [have] followed up a few things. But don't take away all this guy did, and to sit there and blame him for all this, I think is wrong."
That's not just coachspeak. Pinkel isn't the most evocative and colorful speaker, but he tends to mean what he says, and there's enough affirmation in there that it's clear he means all of it. Get used to this kind of thing, of course -- the more coaches get asked about the Paterno story during the next two weeks of media days, the more we'll see coaches standing by the fallen patriarch of their order, whether tentatively or otherwise.
South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier was also asked about Paterno, but chose to note only that he was "a great college football coach," and left it at that.
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