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Learning lessons on the field after the game is over

Penn State's football players mopped up Florida International, 59-0, in the Nittany Lions' opener on Saturday but then had to make good on their obligation to sweep up Beaver Stadium the next day.

After several players were in a brawl in the spring, Joe Paterno, now 80, said that all the players would have to clean the home stadium as punishment. Sunday morning, they did just that. And to top it off, after they had finished and were back on the buses to take them back to their dorms, they were told they didn't do a good enough job and had to go back and do it again.

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Apparently, the football team earns money for the clean-up work but that gets donated into an athletic fund.

I know that there are some people who believe Paterno's time has passed. Maybe that's true. Or maybe he's still capable of leading a program that can contend for BCS berths and national titles. Regardless, there is lot to be said for some old-fashioned values of individual and collective responsibility that Paterno stands for.

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A long time ago, I covered a small college football game in South Jersey. It was at a college then called Glassboro State. It's now Rowan University. The coach, I recall, wore a tweedy suit and a bow tie. And after the game, he had his players line up at one end zone, shoulder to shoulder, and slowly make their way down the 100 yards. As they went, they bent over and replaced divots.

I don't remember the score or any of the players. But I remember that business of replacing the divots. And I'll wager that while all the stuff that those players learned about tackling and blocking and catching and throwing all faded in time, they -- like me -- remember picking up those divots.  And while the instruction of keeping your head up when tackling has limited value as you go through life, the lesson the Glassboro players learned about taking some responsibility, individually and as a team, at least had a chance of serving them well.

Photo credit: J. Pat Carter/AP file

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