And let's be honest, Paterno's eyeglasses weren't just a device that made it easier to see, the glasses were a window into the man's soul. Paterno's glasses were like the man himself: straightforward, functional and unadorned. See those dark-rimmed black glasses on a man, and you knew what to expect. This was a man not given over to flash or to grand displays of emotion. This was a man who valued hard work over showboating, getting the job done over looking good while doing it.
In fact, I'll even go this far, Paterno's glasses were the single most well-known fashion choice of any living college football coach. Are any of us prepared for what life without an owlish-Joe Paterno will actually be like? How could we be? The man had been rocking the same glasses since John F. Kennedy was president. There are only three certainties in college football: all players will eventually leave, the ACC will be bad, and Joe Paterno
Yep, after 394 victories, the most in college football history, Paterno says his new look even throws him for an occasional loop.
"I feel strange. When I don't wear 'em, and I put on a sweater, I reach to take the glasses off and I don't have them on," he told Fight on State.
The feeling is so odd that Paterno has had his signature frames and lenses refashioned, even though they aren't necessary, just because he misses the feel. So while mourning over the departure of Paterno's frame and lenses may be premature, there is no doubt that the improvement of Paterno's vision leaves behind a glaring void in the all-important iconic coaching look.All of us, each college football fan in America, craves a replacement. I kindly offer 13 potential replacements.
Jim Tressel's sweatervest at Ohio State
Tressel is still young in terms of tenure, but the sweater vest fits him perfectly. It's staid, boring, the clipped apparel of a man who appears to live a joyless existence. Terrelle Pryor didn't need to visit Ohio State and meet with Tressel to see whether or not his skills would translate to Buckeye brilliance, all he needed to do was watch Tressel shuffle down the sideline, back unbending and ramrod stiff, cotton sweater vest taut and unwrinkled -- does he iron it? -- to know that he and Tressel were not compatible.
Now give Tressel the least conventional quarterback in the country, a man who excels at making plays outside of a regimented setting and you have a recipe for disaster. Tressel clearly has been successful, but mixing Tressel and Pryor is like asking the coach to show up one day in a Hawaiian shirt, slacks, and boat shoes while strumming a ukulele.
It ain't happening.
Les Miles' hat at LSU
Thesis: There are two ways to wear hats: A.) purely as a functional device, i.e. protection from the elements, and B.) for ceremonial status, like the Pope or generals.
Les Miles' hat is pure ceremony, Napoleon meets the Bayou. (There's a Louisiana Purchase and clock management joke here, but even I think that's too complicated.) The Miles hat is designed to inspire confidence, terrify the enemy, and give the illusion that the man wearing the hat has such prodigious mental capabilities that his brain requires breathing room, a billowing airspace lest the heat emanating from the complex mental equations brewing inside unleash a conflagration.
In reality, of course, Miles believes that a hat worn too closely to his skin allows others to see inside at what he is thinking.
Tommy Tuberville's transition lenses at Texas Tech
Now that he's at Texas Tech, Red Raider fans will experience the curious fashion sense of a man who uses bottles of Brylcreem like they're going out of style. Despite being a multi-millionaire, rather than carry sunglasses and glasses, Tuberville makes the radical move -- perfected in 1973 -- of rocking the transition lenses, glasses and sunglasses in one frame!
Now you see Tuberville's eyes, whoa, the sun emerges from a cloud, now you don't.
It's like Zartan meets football.
Dave Wannstedt's mustache at Pittsburgh
The Wannstache is a reliable sort of mustache so long as you don't pair it with a baseball cap and sunglasses, Miami style. Then the Wannstache turns into the disguise worn by a bank robber or porn star, potentially both. As is, Wannstedt's Pittsburgh mouth fur is kind of 'stache that your reliable yet unsuccessful uncle might wear. You look at him sitting across the table from you at Thanksgiving dinner and think, this guy is solid, he might get fired from his job at the printing press but he's not going to cheat on my Aunt with a Big Boy's waitress.
There's a trust factor.
But there's also a ceiling of achievement. A man with Wannstedt's stache is never, for instance, going to win a national title or open his own successful auto body repair shop.
Rich Rodriguez's wristbands and gloves combo at Michigan
I have a theory: If a coach has to wear wristbands with play calls on them, his offense is too complicated for mere mortals to understand. Such is the case with Rich Rod's wristbands. Combine the wristbands with gloves, as Rich Rod occasionally does, and Rich Rod looks like Barry Bonds up to bat in the final years of his career. It's as if he halfway expects for his own quarterback to try to bean him while he's standing on the sideline -- Varsity Blues style -- and needs the wrist, hand, and arm protections to stave off a broken nose.
In two years, when his disastrous era finally ends, Michigan fans are going to look at pictures of Rich Rod covered in layers of apparel to keep him warm on the sidelines, staring quizzically at his wristbands while wearing mittens and think -- how did we ever hire this guy?
Steve Spurrier's visor at South Carolina
If Spurrier had retired from coaching at the end of the 2001 season, the visor would have become the second most iconic headgear -- after Bear Bryant's houndstooth cap -- in the history of college football.
But after several years of losing football games in South Carolina, the visor has a different feel. Gone is the country club domination, the sense that Spurrier plays by different rules than you or I. Now you get the sense that Spurrier's visor suggests he'd rather be golfing, retired from college football and all the trials and tribulations of ending his career with a quarterback like Stephen Garcia.
It's the headgear of a man who has already checked out of the employment line.
Urban Meyer's absent chin at Florida
The absent chin is a huge evolutionary advantage. While other coaches are sleeping, Urban Meyer is able to emerge from his coffin late at night and suck the marrow of small children without his chin getting in the way.
Bret Bielema's windbreaker at Wisconsin
Bielema is the anti-Rich Rod. The guy coaches in Wisconsin and always shows up in the windbreaker, like he's up early on a private yacht headed for Bermuda. Snow flakes are falling, people are dying of hypothermia in the stands, and Bielema rolls up the sleeves on the windbreaker so his bare Viking arms are exposed to the elements.
This is a man who is made for his team.
Nick Saban's Baby Gap-sized Alabama coaches polo
Most people don't realize that Nick Saban is a wee little man. Perhaps as a result, Saban insists that his shirts are so tight, every chest hair is visible beneath the shirt, pinpricks of individual fury, poison football darts that he plucks while lying awake at night starting at game film playing on the ceiling above his bed.
Most people know that Saban received several hundred thousand dollars as a incentivized bonus for winning the national championship.
What do most people not know?
He now owns the copyright to the extra small size in men's shirt.
Mark Richt's permanent tan at Georgia
I know that coaches in the South spend lots of time in the sunshine, but Athens is not Bogota. Come October and November, you can stand in the sunshine and not maintain a tan. And, believe it or not, there are lots of days when it rains and the sun doesn't come out.
Unless you're Richt, a man who manages to capture the sunlight from cloudy and rainy days.
What does the perma-tan say about Richt? He's healthy, a man unbowed by the physical stress of losing to Florida every year. Mark Richt's strategy isn't to beat Florida, it's for Urban Meyer to die when jogging across the field to shake his hand after the Gators have won by 40 points again.
And damn if Richt isn't going to eventually win. And then have his team join him in a midfield celebration over Meyer's death.
By the way, the real reason UGa VII gave up the ghost so quickly?
Richt took the dog in the tanning bed with him.
Mack Brown's hand clapping at Texas
I know this is more of an action than a physical trait, but few coaches on Earth have ridden to a championship solely based on their ability to make one palm meet another in a somewhat rhythmic fashion.
But few coaches can also cure cancer and make Vince Young keep his shirt on simply by clapping their hands together either.
True story: final play of the USC-Texas game. Team gathers in a huddle.
Mack Brown holds up one finger, the universal signal for Longhorn silence.
Then, just as someone is about to speak, he shakes his head and claps his hands together three times. Vince Young, by this point, the Pavlov to Mack's clapping, simply nods. He knows exactly what play Brown has just called with his hand claps.
The one Mack always calls in tight situations. It's very complex.
"Go score, Vince."
Lane Kiffin's untucked shirt at USC
If Kiffin played college basketball, he'd be the player the referee is always instructing to tuck back in his shirt. As is, he's a coach, and the need to wear an oversized shirt and not tuck it in is a symbol of the arrogant belief that the rules don't apply to him.
Witness the secondary violations and the grandiose world view.
The billowing, untucked shirt, is also a psychological device to make a small man feel bigger than he actually is. For the rest of us, the oversized shirt also offers perpetual evidence of the coat tails that Kiffin has clung to in an effort to attain his positions of prominence.
Pat Hill's handlebar mustache at Fresno State-
This is the opposite of the Wannstache. If a man shows up with this mustache at your Thanksgiving dinner, you don't make eye contact with him and you check your wallet later only to see that the handlebar mustached man, rather than picking your pocket, has somehow managed to slip a throwing star into your wallet. Inevitably, this man has arrived on a Harley and he probably pulled off the side of the road on the way to dinner and hooked up with your female relative in a rest area bathroom.
Or, if those were crowded, potentially on a concrete picnic table.
Put simply, the Hillstache, is the mustache of a man who plays by no rules but his own.
Derek Dooley's perfect hair at Tennessee
True or false, Derek Dooley gets a haircut every three days.
I keep expecting for the Vols to announce that they've done away with the special teams coach and have replaced him with Dooley's personal barber. If the Tennessee football team is as disciplined as Dooley's hair, they will play the entire season without a single penalty.