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"You Got a Good Looking Witch Hunt Here, Don't You?"

Those were the rather bemused words of Penn State coach Joe Paterno in an interview that aired tonight on ESPN's Sportscenter. I understand that the segment aired in snippets on the WWL's website over the past week, and in its entirety this morning on Sportscenter, as well as Sunday morning. However, being gainfully employed and all, this was the first chance I've had to see the piece and have the "Daaayyyy-uuuummmmm!!!!" reaction that usually arises when Outside The Lines takes aim at your college sports program. Because we Georgia fans have a pretty good idea how that feels.  Among the tastier nuggets from this expose:

  • Allegations that JoePa pressured the Judicial Affairs Office to give players involved in a fight at a local apartment complex a lighter punishment.
  • A charge that JoePa sent a team-wide text message threatening to kick any player off the team who volunteered to talk to the Judicial Affairs Office about the incident. Paterno of course denied this, pointing out (as you would suspect) that he doesn't even know how to send a text message.
  • 17 Penn State players were charged and 9 convicted of criminal charges in 2007 alone.
  • Penn State has been recruiting less upstanding players over the past 4-6 years in an effort to compete in the Big 10, even according (sort of) to at least one former player.

Now, very little of this will be news to readers of SB Nation's fine Penn State blog Black Shoe Diaries. Run Up The Score of BSD previewed this story on Friday, pointing out the generally unsourced nature of the allegations, and the fact that it's not really news that Penn State has a "fighting and drinking problem". I would have to agree that anyone who didn't know most of this probably also didn't know that Jim Tressel gets a little prickly when you ask him about "SEC speed", Stephen Garcia has mild to moderate impulse control problems, and Bobby Petrino has Ryder on speed dial.

But hard on the heels of the Iowa conflagration, you have to wonder if thing will gain a little bit of traction. Nine criminal convictions out of 100 or so players is probably above the campus-wide average. And lets face it, JoePa ain't who he used to be. I know, I know. "JoePa's in great shape!" For an 81 year old man. But there's a big difference between walking two miles in the morning and doing some light stretching and the 18-20 hour days the Nick Sabans of the coaching world are pulling in a bloodthirsty, paranoid effort to kick your ass. Big difference.

Bottom line, this isn't going away. Paterno is going to be painted as doddering and incompetent until he eventually becomes doddering and incompetent. It won't get better than this, Nittany Lions. ESPN's report was a typical onesided hackjob, the kind  the Outside The Lines gang  specializes in (and Stephen A. Smith comments on without adding anything intelligent to the conversation). But it's really a symptom of something larger: a perception in the broader college football universe that Joe Paterno has outstayed his effectiveness.