Partisan bickering has reduced Washington to a post-Era of Good Feelings, pre-Capra Thunderdome of hurled insults and hurled feces. But not in Harrisburg! Both of Pennsylvania's Senators and one representative are ignoring party lines to send a letter to Barack Obama, urging him to award Joe Paterno with the nation's highest civilian honor.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is awarded for "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors." The letter sent to Obama (available in full below) cites Paterno's numerous contributions to Penn State University, which is not the United States nor the world.
Coach Paterno's accomplishments on the football field are nothing short of legendary. During his 45-year tenure at Penn State, he has amassed 402 career wins – more than any other coach in Division I history. He has coached five undefeated teams, two national championship teams, won three Big Ten conference championships, and been named "Coach Of The Year" five times by the American Football Coaches Association.
While these numbers are unrivaled, Coach Paterno's contributions to society off the field are even more noteworthy. His commitment to the success of student athletes under his guidance is abundantly clear. Under his tenure, Penn State's football team has had 16 Hall of Fame Scholar-Athletes, 47 Academic All-Americans, and 18 NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship winners – evidence of his dedication to helping his players excel in both athletic and academic endeavors.
A number of sportsmen have been honored with the award, including coaches Bear Bryant and John Wooden. So there's no good reason why Paterno shouldn't qualify. Unless he's forced to climb the stage at the White House to accept the medal.