Penn State's Paterno cuts back on travel even more
May 11, 2011 8:00 AM
Penn State State head coach Joe Paterno.
By Ron Musselman Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State coach Joe Paterno hasn't traveled to visit a high school recruit in nearly 40 months.
Now, for the second year in a row, he won't be hitting the road for his annual "Evening with Joe" speaking engagements that have been major fundraisers for years.
Intestinal issues caused Paterno, 84, to cancel appearances at similar events last year in Pittsburgh, Hershey and Philadelphia.
He has not attended an "Evening with Joe" event in Pennsylvania since May 2009, when he visited Fogelsville in the Lehigh Valley. That same year, he also appeared in New York City and Arlington, Va.
"The last I heard, they were reworking those events and how they do them," Guido D'Elia, director of communications and branding for football, said Tuesday. "I don't know that [Joe] would or wouldn't do them [this year]. We're waiting to see what format they come up with."
No "Evening with Joe" events are scheduled for this spring, according to the Penn State Alumni Association. Last year's events were co-sponsored by the alumni association and the Nittany Lion Club. Tickets ranged in price from $30 for members of those two groups to $45 for non-members.
Several alumni and fans received refunds a year ago after Paterno was a last-minute no-show.
The Pittsburgh and Philadelphia events were canceled altogether. The Hershey event went on as scheduled, but many alumni and fans expressed anger and disappointment over Paterno's absence.
Daniel Byrd, president of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association, said Tuesday that his organization makes money whether or not Paterno shows up for an event.
"It does not affect the local chapter in Pittsburgh, membership-wise or financially," Byrd said. "My chapter is growing like wildfire. We sell out our events. In the past, we have had other great speakers such as [radio play-by-play man] Steve Jones, [defensive coordinator] Tom Bradley, [quarterbacks coach] Jay Paterno and others.
"While having Joe Paterno speak would, of course, be exciting, I think Penn State alumni are loyal to the university as a whole, and I think most alumni understand it is only due to health issues that Joe cannot do the speaking tour."
D'Elia, who said Paterno is doing well health-wise, said the "Evening with Joe" events had suffered from declining attendance in recent years.
"I think even when [Joe] was involved, the audiences kept getting less and less," D'Elia said. "It's an old-style format where they trot the coach out in Scranton or wherever at 6 o'clock at night, and it's the same people every year.
"There wasn't anybody new in the crowd. So, it didn't make sense for the alumni or anybody to keep doing it the same as they had for years. It's been the same for way too long."
Paterno, the winningest coach in Division I with 401 victories, is entering his 46th season on the sideline, and the final year of his contract.
He cut back dramatically on his schedule last season. He made fewer appearances at the weekly State College Quarterback Club luncheon and on his weekly radio call-in show. He also delegated more authority to his assistant coaches.
Now, barring a last-minute change, Paterno will pass on "Evening with Joe" events.
"He still plans to go out and do some [other] fundraisers," D'Elia said. "I just can't tell you where and when right now."