Penn St. players skip Orange Bowl media day

Updated: December 7, 2005, 8:18 PM ET
Associated Press

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- There was something missing at a function on Wednesday that had been billed for days as a gabfest between Penn State coach Joe Paterno, his players and the media about the Orange Bowl.

The players didn't show up.

Paterno said he didn't want his team caught up in the early hoopla over the Jan. 3 game against Florida State, which will cap Penn State's comeback season after two straight losing years. The coach also said he wanted his team focused on preparing for final exams, which start Monday.

Still, the last-minute change by Paterno led to some testy exchanges with reporters, some of whom traveled several hours to attend Penn State's "Orange Bowl media day."

"What I've been trying to do is make sure that everybody is staying on their studies and not getting caught up in all the hoopla that they can't do anything about right now," Paterno said during a news conference at Beaver Stadium.

"I'm not even sure why we are even having a press conference now this far away from it," he added.

Paterno isn't a stranger to the hype that comes with bowl games -- he's won 20 of them, one more than his Florida State counterpart, Bobby Bowden.

Bowden leads Paterno in career victories among major college coaches, 359 to 353, and much of the attention so far has been focused on the sideline matchup, especially since players haven't been made available.

Players had also been scheduled to talk with reporters this past Sunday, after the Orange Bowl matchup was announced, but that was canceled at the last minute, too.

Paterno this season had lobbied for more attention from the media for some of his players, especially senior quarterback Michael Robinson, who leads a potent offense.

"You guys didn't help me one bit with them. All I know is that Michael Robinson is not one of the finalists for the Heisman Award," he said.

One notable piece of news that came out of Paterno's solo act was on receiver Derrick Williams.

He is considered "week to week" as he recovers from a broken left arm suffered during the loss to Michigan in October. Doctors had said the star freshman might be out three to four months.

At the end of the news conference, Paterno tried to strike a conciliatory tone, stressing he was trying to shield his players from big-game hype.

"So if I am a little bit protective," he said, "I would rather be that and alienate you guys and girls than I would to get all caught up in a whole other thing, because one thing leads to another."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press