Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Responses to the death of Joe Paterno have been pouring out from across the country, and the SEC hasn't been any different.
South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier issued a statement through the university, which reads:
"I have the utmost respect and admiration for Joe Paterno. I've coached around 300 college games and only once when I've met the other coach at midfield prior to the game have I asked a photographer to take a picture of me with the other coach. That happened in the Citrus Bowl after the '97 season when we were playing Penn State. I had one of our university photographers take the picture with me and Coach Paterno, and I still have that photo in the den at my house. That's the admiration I have for Joe Paterno. It was sad how it ended, but he was a great person and coach."
Nick Saban spoke to ESPN Sunday morning about the loss of the Nittany Lion legend, and the Birmingham News transcribed his comments:
"Joe Paterno gave his life to college football ... He gave his life to the players and college football.
"Not just at Penn State, but when I was the head coach at Michigan State, we had a player who could get a sixth year because of an injury, and Joe was the head of the committee. He got it done for the player, and that player actually ran a touchdown against them that could have cost them the game later that season.
"But never I never doubted with him that he was going to do what was best for college football, and the players that played it, and I think that should be his legacy ..
"Probably as much as anything what we all try to get as coaches, a well-disciplined team that gives tremendous effort, plays physical, has the ability to execute down-in and down-out and play winning football.
"And when you played Joe's teams, that's exactly what you were playing against. They always had real good athletes, but to me it was the level they performed at that was indicative of the kind of program that he ran, the kind of influence that he had on the players."
Saban's counter at Auburn, Gene Chizik, also released a statement:
“Coach Paterno is one of the greatest coaches in all of sport, and his achievements in college football may never be surpassed. More important is the lasting impact he left with the countless players who played for him. I’m saddened of the news of Coach Paterno’s passing and my thoughts and prayers are with the entire Paterno family.”
Paterno also received a tribute from one of the conference's most respected former coaches, with retired Kentucky head coach Rich Brooks sending out the following tweet:
It's not just the SEC's coaches expressing their respects, either. Not every tweet issued by swaggering Heisman finalist Tyrann Mathieu could be called "respectful," but this one ...
... certainly can be.
During his 45-year head coaching career, Paterno squared off against the SEC's current 14 squads in 16 different bowl games, including two Sugar Bowl classics (1978 vs. Alabama, a 14-7 loss, and 1982 vs. Georgia, a 27-23 win) that stand as two of the most memorable games of his entire tenure. He finished with an 11-5 record in those 16 bowls.
Since Paterno's hire in 1966, the current 14 members of the SEC have been coached by 110 different head coaches (not counting interim coaches), an average of 7.9 coaches per team.
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