Tuesday, October 28, 2003
Paterno: Trouble on and off field make for tough year
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Penn State has lost four in a row for
the second time in three years. The tougher number for Joe Paterno
to deal with has been the off-the-field problems of some of his
It has added up to what he called the toughest season in his
54-year coaching career.
"There isn't a question about that," Paterno said Tuesday. "I
haven't been around a 2-and-6 football team for 60 years. When I
was a junior in high school, we were 2-and-6 -- we ended up being
2-and-7, I think. The next year, we ended up winning all but one.
"It's tough," Paterno said. "But what are you going to do
about it? I can go home and cry, or I can come out of the closet
In some cases, he's even had to fight his own team. Paterno
announced Tuesday that Tony Johnson, the team's leading wide
receiver, would remain suspended for this week's game against No. 8
Ohio State, and that offensive lineman Tom McHugh had been
dismissed from the team.
Johnson was arrested Oct. 17 on a drunken driving charge; McHugh
was issued citations early Sunday morning for harassment, public
drunkenness and underaged drinking after he allegedly slapped a
woman in the face.
"It's kind of sad," lineman Charles Rush said. "I've known
Tommy. Tommy's in my class. We're really good friends, and he's
definitely going to be missed on the team."
Paterno said it was a difficult decision -- McHugh's uncle had
played for Paterno, and he's known the family for 30 years. But
Paterno said he had little choice when McHugh's citations came just
hours after he had warned the players to watch their behavior.
"Tommy did a dumb thing. He did it after I had talked to the
squad, on the plane, 'Everybody behave,' and the whole bit, and he
didn't. And he's got to suffer the consequences," Paterno said.
"And I think somewhere along the line the squad has to understand
that there's responsibility, and obviously we have some kids that
have skirted it here and skirted it there."
It's been a particularly troublesome year for the Nittany Lions.
Anwar Phillips was acquitted on a sexual assault charge just
days before Penn State's opening game; lineman E.Z. Smith was cited
twice in one week for underage drinking; punter Jeremy Kapinos
entered a youth-offender program on an alcohol charge; defensive
lineman Scott Paxson pleaded guilty to a summary charge of criminal
mischief after campus police said they saw him riding a stolen
bicycle; and linebacker Dethrell Garcia was charged with DUI last
week, shortly after he quit the team.
But despite the continued off-field problems, Rush said they
were not affecting the team.
"I think it's had more of an impact on me, personally,"
Paterno said. "I've had a tough time convincing people that I'm
not dealing with inanimate objects. I'm dealing with people whose
parents I know, whose homes I've been in, people who've trusted
their kids to me, and I'm almost like a surrogate father. Every
time you take an action it's like taking an action against your own
"I still like my team," Paterno said. "I'm disappointed in
some things that have happened, ... but overall, we've been
competitive in every game. It's not a question that we quit, died,
that we've been overpowered. In the last couple years, every game
we've been in we've been competitive. We've got a challenge, no
question about it, but that doesn't bother me. I've never been a
guy that wanted to back away from a fight."