Poor Joe Paterno must be spinning in his grave. What's that, he's still alive?

At 82, the Penn State coach must be nearing the end of a long and honorable career.

Remember when he was a kid of 50 or so? He talked a lot back then about something called the "Grand Experiment."

It was his dream of a seamless college experience for athletes, one that emphasized academics and integrity every bit as much as bowl games. Paterno spoke so often on the subject that it helped build his reputation.

Funny, but you don't hear JoePa mention the experiment much these days.

Some of that reluctance stems from the fact that the old coach is afraid that he sounds too sanctimonious, and is occasionally embarrassed. Some rivals sneeringly called him "St. Joe."

But it is also present because Paterno is smart enough to realize the battle is lost.

Big-time college athletics are out of control.

Sure, you hear a lot about graduation rates and student-athletes. Pay those phrases little mind. They're merely platitudes meant to divert your attention and impress big-money boosters.

Sports budgets keep exploding even as state funding and charitable gifts to colleges dry up. Some schools, like Ohio State, spend more than $100 million annually and continue to dun donors for ever-bigger contributions and seat-licensing fees.

At Texas, coach Mack Brown's measly $3 million salary was just bumped up to $5 million. That's more than 12 times what the president earns, and probably 20 times what Texas' top professor makes. It's also obscene.

And, by the way, if Texas beats Alabama in the Rose Bowl, Brown will get $450,000 more because, hey, who can live on $5 million in a recession?

At Notre Dame, meanwhile, officials have asked another coach to walk away from another long-term contract at another school to sign another long-term contract with the Irish. If Brian Kelly is lucky, he'll survive five years before the fat cats get his head and a few more contracts are rendered meaningless.

At Tennessee, the NCAA is looking into reports that university student-hostesses went on recruiting trips. Forget the NCAA violations that implies; you'd like to think the concept of good-looking women's being used as official seductresses would have vanished in the Mad Men era.

Sadly, plenty of schools still utilize them. Does anybody believe they're picked for their knowledge of campus history or the biology curriculum?

They're eye candy. And that's not only sexist but also dangerous. Remember the rape scandal involving Colorado football players a few years ago? The victim was a hostess.

A 2003 Sports Illustrated article on the subject noted that a lot of young football stars feel entitled to more than a tour or a meal. One high-profile recruit, the article said, tried to lure a hostess to his room by telling her that "the girls at Kentucky and Georgia did it."

And speaking of Kentucky, it's guilty of an even more egregious offense.

The school hired John Calipari.

JoePa has had trouble in his program, too, even if it does remain one of the standards in an increasingly sordid landscape.

Still, he must feel nauseated when he surveys the scene.

It helps explain why he's become so whiny in his old age.

A long shot. You could have made a lot of money two weeks ago wagering that Allen Iverson would enter 2010 more well-respected than Tiger Woods.

NASCAR note of the week. Danica Patrick will be competing on the NASCAR circuit next year, which prompts one immediate question for her:

Have you ever been to Talladega?

Irvin's empathy. On a recent show on sports-talk radio, ex-Cowboys wideout (widemouth?) Michael Irvin was asked about Tiger Woods' much-publicized domestic troubles.

"I can empathize," Irvin said, words he could have used for any number of societal offenses. "There is nothing like being with your wife after a story has broken and other women are involved, and you're sitting at home. . . . My heart hit my toe, and you can't reach for the remote control.

"I wanted to reach for the remote control and she says, 'What is this now?' I say, 'I don't know about this!'  The girl says Michael this and that and . . . I say, 'Oh, my god. What do I say when she stops talking?'

"You know what she said to me, and I will never forget it, after that program went off? 'Baby, we should pray for her.' I hit my knees so fast, you would have thought I scored a touchdown."

Contact staff writer Frank Fitzpatrick at 215-854-5068 or ffitzpatrick@phillynews.com.