"When Joe suddenly passed away 15 years ago after a full and happy life, we were in a bit of a bind," said Penn State president Graham Spanier. "We didn't really have a high-profile successor available, and Joe was so much the face of the program that we were worried what would happen to Penn State football if he was no longer the coach."
One thing led to another and before Spanier and other Penn State officials knew it, a man dressed up as JoePa was on the sidelines for the 1996 opener against USC.
"We won the game and we went on from there," said Spanier. "No one ever asked if the costume guy wasn't Joe, so we never said anything. Plus, Joe had long since become sort of a mascot anyway, so making him a true mascot didn't feel too misleading."
It's the sport that's like dunking a football over the goal post.
ESPN's College GameDay is in Tuscaloosa, Alabama this week for Alabama vs. Penn State.
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News Joe Paterno Dies
Moments after hearing that Bobby Bowden had officially retired as head coach of the Florida State Seminoles, Penn State head coach Joe Paterno let out a sigh, made a few last remarks, and happily slipped into sweet, sweet death.
"Oh, thank Christ in heaven," said Paterno, letting out a long breath. "Finally. Finally. I never thought he would retire. But now he has. And my career wins record is forever safe. Goodbye, world."
And, with that, the 82-year-old head coach slumped over dead.
"I'm so happy for Joe," said Penn State defensive coordinator, Tom Bradley, who was in Paterno's office when he quit living. "This is all he has wanted for so long. He had to keep coaching and living long after he intended to because Bowden was as stubborn as he was. But in the end, Joe was more stubborn. By a few minutes. What a fighter."
Bowden expressed remorse upon receiving the news of his rival's passing.
"I'm sorry he had to die," said Bowden. "But me faking my retirement so he would stop living was the only way I could make up the wins gap. What? I had to do it. I'm not as dumb as I've looked the past few years."
The Florida State icon then announced a new five-year contract extension.
This video is from Saturday's Big Ten game between Minnesota and Penn State.
Some people took offense to Goldy Gopher "mocking" a Penn State player for praying. In fact, the University of Minnesota has issued a statement apologizing for the mascot's behavior.
But shouldn't the Penn State player be the one apologizing? He prayed and then looked up to the heavens. Absurd. Disrespectful. Sacreligious even.
God isn't in the heavens. Everyone knows that.
God is in Minnesota.
There are only a few days left until the first Saturday of the college football season and SportsPickle is counting down the top stories of 2009. Today: No. 7, Joe Paterno.