While Merrell Noden ’78 makes an important point about balance between athletics and academics at Princeton in his Extra Point column (Sports, Jan. 18), he did not choose wisely by starting with an implied contrast with Penn State, where I worked for 20 years (1989-2009). In fact, what distinguished Penn State’s football program from so many others in Division I was precisely the emphasis that its longtime coach, Joe Paterno, placed on academics. Among the teams that played in bowl games this year, Penn State ranked first – even above Stanford – in its players’ grade-point average.
The riot at Penn State, though ill-advised, was vastly overdramatized by the media and represented the actions of only a very small minority of students, who turned out the next night in larger numbers for a candlelight vigil to honor the victims of child abuse. And the protest over the firing of Paterno needs to be understood in context, as the expression of high admiration for a coach who always put academics first, as much as any coach in the Ivy League has ever done.
Sandy Thatcher ’65 *67