Slideshow: A look at Paterno's legendary career
Take a look back at legendary Penn State coach Joe Paterno through the years.
SN: What are some coaches and administrators failing to understand?
Paterno: We've got to be careful that we don't lose sight of the fact that we're supposed to be educators. Hopefully, coaches are judged by the impact they have on the whole educational community. Not that you dominate it, but you're part of it. Boosters don't come in and fire the psychology professors, but they fire football coaches who may have more of an impact on more people, in the right way, as far as teaching and what college is all about. … And we're getting paid too much. Football coaches are getting paid much too much. We've lost what should be our mission. I think our mission is, hey, take a bunch of young kids and make sure football is a meaningful experience for them that helps them 10, 15, 20 years from now. It's just as if I was an English prof and I took Hamlet and tried to tell a kid, 'To be or not to be,' and, 'Neither a borrower nor a lender be'; tried to turn that into what's going to be important to them when they grow up. If we lose that, then I think we're pros. What's the difference? We're just a bunch of minor league teams.
SN: Has college football gotten too big?
Paterno: I'm concerned about it. I don't like, obviously, what's happened with one guy (USC's Pete Carroll) leaving and going to the pros because of this; another guy (Tennessee's Lane Kiffin) leaving a school that was good enough to take a chance with him. I don't know these people and don't know the circumstances involved, but I do think we need to make sure that the people who run the universities keep athletics, whether it's football or whatever it is, in a certain perspective. … I don't want to play down how important athletics are, but there's got to be some place where enough's enough. You're important, but you're not that important.
SN: A few coaches were fired in recent months for mistreating players. Where do you think the line should be?
Paterno: Some kids you can challenge; some kids you can't. If there's anything in coaching that you've got to be very careful about, it's that they're not all the same. There's a psychological situation with some kids. You take a kid who has had no real experience and no confidence in himself but is a great natural athlete, who maybe comes from a broken family, maybe hasn't had a great high school background … and then to take him and treat him the same as some middle-class kid who comes from a great high school, has had nothing but success, who has a father that's been involved in the whole thing, you've got to know what you're doing. You're dealing with kids that you have to understand a little bit. You know what? I slapped a kid across the helmet this year in our bowl game. Did I abuse him? No. I abused myself—my hand hurt for two days. He looked at me: "What did you do that for?" I said, "Because you're getting sloppy, you're getting lazy, and I want you to be better than you think you can be. And the next time you miss a block, I'll kick you right in the rear end." Now, could I do that with certain other kids? No, I wouldn't do it.
SN: That's a pretty socially conscious point of view. Did you come by that with 40-plus years of experience or have you always seen things that way?
Paterno: It's the reason I became a coach, because I wanted to have an impact on some people's lives. I make more money now than I ever dreamed I would. I've got 17 grandkids. I believe in what I'm doing. If I were making one-tenth what I was making today, we'd still live in the same house; we've been there 45 years. My wife, she tutors kids for me. We take them over to the house. You'd be amazed how many kids who played pro football sat in my kitchen every morning at 7 o'clock.
SN: How long has it been since you felt you weren't truly in control as far as your job security?
Paterno: A few years ago. Obviously, at my age, people watch how you walk down steps and how you comb your hair. We hit a little point there where we had two losing years in a row (2003-04) and people were telling me it was time to retire. A couple of people in the university come over to see me at the house one day. I said, "Hey, look, we're one or two players away from being pretty good. Just relax. If I can't swing this thing around in a couple years, fine." Then the next year, we lost one game. And since then, we've been fine. That was the only time I really felt that I had to defend some things that I was doing.
CFT: Senior receiver Wilson Van Hooser is transferring from Tulane to help care for his ailing mother.
DPS: Alabama head coach Nick Saban was recently trash-talked by colleagues, and he tells Dan Patrick he wishes he was spoken to in private prior to the insults.
Video: Football from NBC Sports
Saban hurt by colleagues' comments?
DPS: Alabama head coach Nick Saban was recently trash-talked by colleagues, and he tells Dan Patrick what he think of these comments.
BCS title game
Pregame color, key plays and other moments from 'Bama's blowout win.
Check out the action from the postseason.
Check out which players were best of the best at each position.
Check out some of the college football cheerleaders from across the country.