Paterno's Plans Undisclosed

By Sam Ross, Jr. | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 9, 2008 | Go to article overview

Paterno's Plans Undisclosed


Sam Ross, Jr., Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Purdue football coach Joe Tiller spent part of a recent Nike coaches trip discussing the ins and outs of coaching succession plans with another guy named Joe -- Penn State's Joe Paterno.

Tiller will retire after the 2008 season and be replaced by Danny Hope, who has left a head coaching job with Eastern Kentucky to join Tiller's staff for a transition season. Paterno, the 81-year-old Penn State coach whose contract runs through this season, sought out Tiller, full of questions that he wanted answered.

"He was asking me 'Why?' and 'Who?' and 'How?' " Tiller said during a telephone interview. "He didn't really tip his hand. But he did ask me 'Who's this guy?' and 'Why did I like him?' and 'Why now?' and those types of things.

"He didn't say, 'I'm thinking about this or I've got to do this.' But, after it had been announced, he seemed to be curious."

Speculation has been rampant regarding the future of Paterno beyond the 2008 season. Possibilities range from him fulfilling his existing contract by coaching next season and then retiring, to him getting a multi-year extension, to the school giving him a contract with details on a successor as part of it.

A school spokesman said neither Paterno nor Penn State athletic director Tim Curley would be available for interviews on the subject. Penn State president Graham Spanier, who responds to inquiries via e-mail, has written that the ultimate decision will be made by "the director of athletics with the concurrence of the president."

Penn State spokesman Lisa Powers confirmed in a Friday e-mail that Paterno, Curley and Spanier met recently "as part of ongoing discussions."

The e-mail continued that updates will be issued, "if they have anything substantive to report along the way."

Paterno has said repeatedly since the end of the 2007 that he intends to coach beyond his existing contract."I'm not going to coach for 15 years or 10 years," Paterno said last year. "Maybe 3-4- 5 years, I'll coach. Depending on how the Good Lord keeps me healthy and I feel like I'm making a contribution."

Spanier, in an e-mail response to a question of whether other schools' succession plans would influence Penn State's thinking, wrote: "Coach Paterno's current contract goes to 2008 and we are not working under anyone else's timeframe."

Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez would be a good person for the Penn State hierarchy to contact if plans are afoot to address a Paterno successor in contract negotiations.

Alvarez was an early mover in what has become a trend of succession plans when he announced in the summer of 2005 that the upcoming season would be his 16th and final one as Wisconsin head coach and that defensive coordinator Bret Bielema, on the staff for just one previous season, would be the new head coach.

"There were many positives to doing it that way, particularly for Bret, who had not yet been a head coach," Alvarez said in a telephone interview. …

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