PR 101: answering a question about Joe Paterno
The Kansas City Star
PR 101 is a lazy name for a feature we’ll run here from time to time when famous people who often deal with media do it head-shakingly wrong.
Today’s lesson is for college football coaches who are asked about Joe Paterno.
Do answer like Steve Spurrier: “Well, obviously it’s a terrible mess, terrible mess. The only thing I would say about Coach Paterno, when he coached, he did everything right. His teams played fair, fundamentally sound. He was always revered for doing the right things. I don’t want to get into the other side of a terrible, terrible situation.”
Don’t answer like Gary Pinkel: “It’s such a tragedy. Joe Paterno is a friend. I got to know him professionally. You can’t take away the greatness of this man. He was a great man. And however you analyze this, you can’t erase all that this guy has done. You can’t do that. Nobody can do that.”
Even out of professional respect or courtesy, which is what I think Pinkel was doing here, talking about “the greatness of the man” and that “you can’t erase all that this guy has done” is a mistake.
Not a major mistake, mind you. Just a mistake that a famous football coach should be prepared not to make during media days.