LOS ANGELES — A coach’s greatest fear about losing is the way it lingers, like cigarette smoke. When the coach walks into a recruit’s living room, the smell of losing comes in the door with him.
When this year’s seniors signed in February 2005, Penn State had finished with losing records in four of the previous five seasons. The cumulative record over those five years: 26-33. Joe Paterno had just turned 78 years old. Brian Cushing, a prep All-American linebacker from New Jersey, Paterno’s recruiting backyard for decades, signed with USC.
“I wasn’t sure what he was going to do,” Cushing said Monday. “That was definitely a concern of mine. I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen.”