This is a profile of a great Penn Stater, John Shaffer, and the story of how the Fiesta Bowl in 1987 was the beginning of the modern BCS phenomena. I will tell you that I am not a fan of the current system, nor of the kind of swagger and “show boating” (as my dad would say) that marks many strong college teams (and is sadly, par for the course in the pros now). But I will also tell you that this is precisely why I admire Coach Paterno and Penn State so much.
I have a poster from the alumni association that sums it up well:
The Penn State Way
It’s the way a player hands the ball to the ref after scoring.
It’s the white uniform and the black shoes.
It’s the nameless jerseys.
It’s the colorless helmets, save for the scuff marks from the other team.
The Penn State name stands for something—
Something good and decent.
Something proud and honorable.
So let’s stand for the Penn State Way.
Let’s stand for civility and graciousness.
Let’s stand for the visiting team
As they enter the field, and
Let’s show them the Penn State Way.
But that was the thing about John Shaffer: He was one of those quarterbacks who specialized in not losing, one of those quarterbacks you hardly see anymore in major college football, one of those quarterbacks who not only shows up for class but actually cares about his classes, one of those quarterbacks whose job is not to alter the course of the game but simply not to screw the damn thing up.