NittanyNation - Instant analysis: Paternos decision just another turn
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Instant analysis: Paternos decision just another turn

During a season in which the media has watched Penn State head coach Joe Paterno look from gaunt to good and lacking to lucid, weekly press conferences with the Lions' 83-year old head coach have been anything but typical from week to week.
This afternoon's final weekly press conference of the 2010 regular season was yet another twist to the ongoing plot.
Asked immediately if he planned to return to the sidelines to coach the Nittany Lions next season, Paterno played coy with veteran beat writer Rich Scarcella (who had enunciated his question quite clearly over the phone line), forcing the reporter to repeat the question emphatically before coming clean.
"Oh, oh. I thought you said retire..." Paterno said slyly. "Yeah. Why, you got something I don't know? No, I am looking forward to it. You know, we've struggled a little bit this year with the youth and the injuries and the whole bit.
"I think we're not where I would like us to be yet. But I think with a good spring and preseason practice, we could be a pretty good football team next year and I'd like to be a part of it."
The irony with Paterno's response, of course, is that in much healthier years, Paterno had taken offense to similar questions or avoided the topic completely, choosing to remain focused on his team's upcoming game. Throw in Paterno's tendency this entire season to misunderstand or flat-out not hear questions, and the sly smile on Paterno's face when taking on the subject was not lost on anyone.
The impact of Paterno's statement this afternoon will be minimal, at best, among fans of the program. As it has for at least the past 10 years, speculation will still run rampant over his future. At soon-to-be 84-years old, that simply won't stop.
But, in his response, Paterno did manage to pointedly address what his plans are for next season with no mincing of words to the media. In responding as confidently as he did, Paterno will have effectively answered the question for the media until a currently unforeseen set of circumstances would change that outlook.
After stating his plans for next season, Paterno followed by citing his three most recent ESPN Academic All-Americans - three-timer Stefen Wisniewski, plus linebacker Chris Colasanti and defensive end Pete Massaro - plus the cooperation of the university in re-opening dorms at 5 p.m. on Friday, therefore allowing students to return to campus in advance of Saturday's game, as two more reasons to come back next year.
"One of the reasons I feel good about the football team is... Penn State again leads the nation with three first-team ESPN Academic All-Americans, which I think is great," Paterno said. "Part of the goals we've set out for these kids when they come in is to do a good job academically. It's always great to have a couple of kids stand out as these three kids are.
"And the other thing is the cooperation we get from the university. We were concerned with the fact that the dormitories would be closed Friday this week, which would obviously make it tough for some kids to come back and go to the game.
"When we brought it up to the university, the university was cooperative, and they're going to open up the dorms so that if the kids want to come back and stay in their dormitory and want to come to the game on Saturday, they can.
"So, it's been a good situation, and I don't see any reason to leave it right now."
Obviously, in spite of his most earnest intentions, a variety of factors could still come into play that would prevent Paterno from returning to the sidelines next season. Namely, his health.
Following the still mysterious illness that kept him out of the public eye from May through July, Paterno's first appearance in Chicago for the Big Ten Media Days in early-August was literally a shock.
His frail presence was matched by slurred speech. Frankly, it was unnerving.
Granted, having been through a torn ACL, serious illness and a serious hip injury over the previous three years, Paterno had certainly seen his share of difficult days.
Yet, the physical progress he'd made through the 2009 season quickly and dramatically aged a man who had still appeared much younger than his 83 years.
Even with what can only be described as a remarkable turnaround in his physical appearance, Paterno has still seemed aloof at the podium at times this season, whether it be following a game or during his weekly press conferences.
That said, his three or four most recent turns at the microphone have been fine, if not entertaining.
For the media, asking pointed questions at a man with unquestioned intellectual might can often feel like sheep being led to slaughter.
At press conferences, Paterno is literally above his subjects. Frail though he may appear, he still sits a good three feet above reporters, looking down both literally and figuratively at a group he's had a tenuous relationship with (at best) over the past 30 years.
While he didn't hesitate to show his annoyance at being asked what he perceived to be the same questions about Michigan State, and he continued to misinterpret or mishear other questions, Paterno seemed to be upfront and honest responding to further questions about his intentions for next season.
At this point, Paterno is beginning to feel very much like the 'senile' old man... quotes intended. Although his facilities are at times clearly diminished, he has enough moments of razor sharpness that can lead you to wonder exactly how much is real and how much is an act.
In an exchange with another veteran beat reporter, the Altoona Mirror's Neil Rudel, much later in the press conference, Paterno managed to exhibit a microcosm of the season's sessions with the media all in one response.
Rudel, making light of Paterno's announcement to return for next season, referenced a quote from famous author Tennessee Williams that Paterno had himself quoted earlier this season. The exchange that followed was nothing short of befitting everything we've seen this year, including some confusion, some hearing issues, and finally, a retort that broke up the room of assembled reporters:
Rudel: "In your response to a couple of questions earlier about your future, does that mean you've been in touch with Tennessee Williams?"
Paterno: "Have I finished with what?"
Rudel: "Have you been in touch with Tennessee Williams? Aren't you the guy that talked about Tennessee Williams a lot the past few years?"
Paterno: "I've talked about Tennessee Williams? Who is Tennessee Williams?"
Rudel: "Isn't he the guy that said that nobody has ever lived or coached forever, but you might be the exception?"
Paterno: "Have I said that?"
Rudel: "I thought you did?"
Paterno: "Well, I'm never quite sure what kind of stuff I tell you guys anyway. Ohhh, no, no, you're talking about the author, I thought you were talking about... No, no.
"Tennessee said, 'Nobody is immortal, but somehow I thought I was the exception'....
"Why don't you get the darn thing straight? This isn't one of your columns. We're talking about being accurate."
And with that, Paterno effectively put the issue to rest... at least through this weekend, anyway.
Notes:
For as much as Paterno's statement of his intention to return will dominate the headlines, there was plenty of football-related news revealed at the press conference today.
- Paterno was asked about the situation along the offensive line with center Doug Klopacz's ankle sprain, the shift of Stefen Wisniewski over to the center spot, and then the two replacements, John Urschel at right guard filling in for Wisniewski and Mike Farrell at left tackle, filling in for Chima Okoli, who missed last game due to showing up late for a team breakfast on gameday this past Saturday.
"I think both Urschel and Farrell did really well considering the kid has only played five or six plays in games, I thought both of them did very well," Paterno said. "I'm not so sure about (Klopacz) whether he's going to make it or not. We'll know whether he can do some practicing tomorrow and then we'll be able to better judge it. I would doubt very much that he's going to play. But, he's a tough kid and he wants to play and the doctor said, Let's see what he can do tomorrow."
- Paterno also gave an update on linebacker Mike Mauti, who seems to be continuing his recovery from a shoulder injury sustained early in the game against Ohio State two weeks ago.
"Well Mike is going to be in what we call a green cross. You get a red cross, you can't do anything. Green cross, you can do some things and they have him in a green cross for today. I think after we watch him do some things today, we'll have a better idea how much he can do on Saturday, if any at all."