Texas A&M red-faced over 'casket' comment at pep rally

Updated: December 28, 2007, 7:46 PM ET
Associated Press

SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Texas A&M officials have apologized to Penn State administrators for a student leader's references to needing a "casket" for coach Joe Paterno.

One A&M yell leader, during a pep rally Thursday night, told the crowd that Paterno was "on his death bed" and "someone needs to find him a casket." The remarks drew boos from the crowd.

Paterno turned 81 last week. Penn State faces A&M on Saturday night in the Valero Alamo Bowl.

A&M team spokesman Alan Cannon said Friday he did not know the name of the yell leader, though the student has been sent home.

The yell leaders -- similar to cheerleaders -- are A&M's official spirit organization and lead fans' cheers during games and other school events. They are elected by the student body.

Some A&M and Penn State fans said the student's remarks were offensive and inappropriate.

I think everybody has to take things with a grain of salt. ... Some young guy went up there, trying to be funny. Maybe he's accurate, I don't know.

--Joe Paterno, on Texas A&M yell leader saying he's "on his death bed"

Paterno, at a news conference Friday at the Alamodome, said he was backstage with Aggies interim coach Gary Darnell when the comments were made, but did not hear them.

"I think everybody has to take things with a grain of salt," Paterno said. "Some young guy went up there, trying to be funny. Maybe he's accurate, I don't know."

Texas A&M's interim president, Eddie Davis, and athletic director Bill Byrne later apologized to their Penn State counterparts.

"I honestly didn't hear it, and I don't particularly care about it," Paterno said Friday. "Sticks and stones will break your bones but names will never hurt you."

Paterno, a 42-year head-coaching veteran, is about to enter the last year of a four-year contract that expires following the 2008 season.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press