Paterno in '09 isn't a question he's earned a new deal
Updated: October 13, 2008, 1:49 PM ETBy Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com
Penn State president Graham Spanier has a commercial pilot's license, has run with the bulls at Pamplona and, here's a new one, is an actual magician.The magic thing makes sense if you believe that Spanier or certain Penn State board of trustees members want to make Joe Paterno disappear. Now you see JoePa and in 2009, now you don't? Spanier, perceived as no huge ally of the legendary Penn State coach, remains an X factor, but so does Paterno himself. In Paterno's business -- and make no mistake, college football is big business -- everything is about leverage. Paterno has it. Spanier doesn't. What Paterno doesn't have is a contract after this season. So it's possible that a six-game countdown (five remaining regular-season games, one bowl game) is under way for major college football's winningest coach. It's also possible that Spanier and assorted trustees aren't upset about that prospect. The official Penn State stance is this: Spanier, Paterno and athletic director Tim Curley agreed this past summer not to discuss JoePa's coaching future until season's end. And since it's only October
But from the outside looking in -- and maybe from the inside looking in, too -- Paterno appears to have won the power struggle. But it's not as if Spanier is issuing any statements begging Paterno to re-up for another four years. Paterno turns 82 in two months. He has eyeglasses older than some of his assistant coaches. And he might be the first eightysomething to injure his right hip while doing an onside kick. That's why he has spent parts of three Penn State games, including Saturday night's 48-7 road mauling of Wisconsin, in the coaches' booth. So, yeah, he's old. He's also 7-0 this season and 38-9 in his past 47 games and, depending on how things shake out, could play for a BCS championship Jan. 8 in Miami. The latest rankings have Penn State ranked third in the country. Leverage. "Look, there are very few who are in Coach Paterno's category," Curley said. "I don't think there will ever be another coach who's done what he's done for one institution over a long period of time at the same institution." Curley, a former Penn State walk-on, graduate assistant coach and recruiting coordinator, doesn't sound like a guy who wants the Paterno Era to end. Question: "If it were up to you, would he be back next year?"
Ned Dishman/Getty ImagesJoe Paterno has been patrolling the Penn State sidelines for 43 seasons. A 44th is still an open question.
Certainly he's been an institution at our place, and I hope he coaches as long as he wants to and is willing to coach. There's not a better coach in the world, both college and pros, and I just hope we can continue to enjoy him for a long time to come.
--Penn State athletic director Tim Curley
Either you can recruit the players, or you can't. Either you can identify with them, or you can't. Either you can hold them together, or you can't. From what I've seen this is one of [Paterno's] better teams.
--Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez
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