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1978 Newspaper Article Shows Joe Paterno’s Idea For A College Football Playoff

Before Ohio State and Alabama won the College Football Playoff, before the BCS even existed, Joe Paterno and Lee Corso had ideas for a definitive National Championship game. A 1978 article in the Washington Post quotes the two on their stances on the topic.

Corso was coaching an Indiana team that ended up 4-7 in 1978, but shared what he thought of a championship game. He said that he’d want nine sportswriters to pick two teams to play on the Saturday before Super Bowl Sunday in the same town in what would be the best weekend in sports.

Paterno and the Nittany Lions were in the midst of an 11-0 regular season that set up a Sugar Bowl matchup for the ages: No. 1 Penn State and No. 2 Alabama. It served as a championship of sorts as the Crimson Tide won 14-7 and ended both teams’ seasons at 11-1. Here are Paterno’s full thoughts from 1978 on an official National Championship game:

“I’d get a committee of 18 or 20 coaches and different people who knew college football. And after the bowl games are over, they’d pick four teams.

“You’d pay each of the four teams $250,000, say, for each game in the playoff. No more. If the games were an awful lot of money, some people might do anything to get into them.

“Then you’d take all the profits – all the television money, the tickets, the concessions, everything – and put it in a development bank kind of thing. A foundation, maybe. Something with a board of trustees that would invest the money. And you wouldn’t touch any of that money until there was, maybe $50 million in the bank.

“From a football playoff, you might realize $5- $6 million a year. Let’s just say we’d average $4 million for the first five years. That’s $20 million. With investments, with interest, that’s $30 million in only five years.

“And all that money is there to be used by college athletic departments all across the country. For something like the Evansville thing [the university’s basketball team died in an airplane accident], you could make an outright grant from the fund, give them $500,000 to get started again.

“Or say a small school needs a facility. It can get a loan at no interest for five years, then pay 4 or 5 percent after that. It would just make it easier for everybody to do what they need to do.

“. . . It’s a big idea, sure, and it would take tremendous work to get it done. But I’m a little screwy. I hate whiners. I’m a guy who wants to do something about it. Use your brain, use your ingenuity.”

(h/t Darren Rovell)

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About the Author

Doug Leeson

Doug is a sophomore and Onward State's Assistant Managing Editor. Dislikes: popcorn, Rutgers, and a low #TimberCount. Likes: "Frozen," Rec Hall, and you. Contact him via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @DougLeeson.


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