Matt Paknis is a former graduate assistant who was part of the Penn State football program in 1987 and 1988. A few days ago, we passed along a report where Paknis says Joe Paterno knew everything about the Penn State program. Paknis also recognized in the late ’80s that Jerry Sandusky was always grabbing the players and had boundary issues. Well Paknis also says Joe Paterno wasn’t ready to play a black quarterback in the late ’80s.
“I was in a staff meeting one time and we were having some problems at quarterback with [Matt] Knizner, and someone recommended ‘what about Darren Roberts?'” Paknis recalled during an appearance on WFAN. “[Roberts] was an All-State quarterback from New Jersey. And Coach [Paterno] just said we’re not ready for a black quarterback.
“And we had Ron Dickerson in the room who was an assistant, and he just went ballistic. And I always thought was pretty cool that he stood up to Joe. But Randall Cunningham was the starting quarterback at the time for the Eagles. But Darren never got a chance for us — I don’t know why — but that was stated in the room.”
On his personal blog, Paknis said of Paterno “He was the consummate bully and control freak who banished players and their potential careers when they did not buy into Joe’s persona.”
Not buying into the Penn State way is a big part of the reason why Paknis left the program. Paterno eventually had black quarterbacks later in his career. Wally Richardson played quarterback in 1995, and Rashard Casey, Michael Robinson and Darryl Clark came later. But if Joe Paterno wasn’t willing to do the right thing back then — play a quarterback regardless of their race — what makes you think he’d be doing the right thing now?
UPDATE: As someone points out in the comments, Penn State briefly had a black quarterback in 1970. His name was Mike Cooper. It doesn’t mean what Paknis says is false, but it shows they did have a black quarterback in 1970. Perhaps Paterno felt the community was not ready for a black quarterback in 1987 or 1988.