Coach's fate pressing issue facing trustees at meeting
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State was a big loser in the Terrelle Pryor sweepstakes yesterday.
Now the most pressing question surrounding the program is whether longtime coach Joe Paterno will be swept out when his contract expires after the 2008 season.
It's a hot-button topic, from Boalsburg to Bradford, Brentwood to Bensalem.
The Penn State Board of Trustees is expected to address Paterno's future during meetings today and tomorrow at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel in Washington.
"It'll definitely be on the menu," said a trustee who requested anonymity.
Penn State athletic director Tim Curley and president Graham Spanier recently met with the 81-year-old Paterno, who is set to begin his 43rd season with the Nittany Lions when spring drills begin Monday. Paterno, the second-winningest coach in Division I history behind Florida State's Bobby Bowden, has yet to receive a contract extension.
Curley did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment, nor did Spanier, who is scheduled to deliver an hour-long president's report to the trustees this afternoon.
Tom Poole, an associate to Spanier, said in an e-mail: "I don't expect any further comments on coach Paterno's contract until such a time as the athletic office feels they have information to share."
Curley previously said there's no deadline for reaching a decision on Paterno's future.
Yet, the university soon must decide whether to give him a contract extension, make it clear this will be his final season or set up a succession plan for when he finally does step aside.
Paterno's players have heard the buzz surrounding their coach.
"We see it every day in the papers," said center A.Q. Shipley from Moon High School. "We can't do anything about it. He's our coach this year, and whatever's going to happen after that, no one really knows.
"He's done a lot for this place. I think they owe it to him to keep him. I think he deserves to be here."
Former linebacker and co-captain Dan Connor, projected to be a first-round NFL draft pick next month, isn't sure Paterno would agree to a succession plan -- ala Florida State's Bobby Bowden, Purdue's Joe Tiller or Kentucky's Rich Brooks.
"[Coach Paterno] is going to go out on his own terms," Connor said. "He's been around long enough to know if he's ready for it or not. He's got a bundle of bowl wins and he's had a lot of success here. I don't think he'll be run out."
Paterno, whose program has experienced an unusually high number of off-the-field incidents since April, has not addressed the media or his contract situation since the day after Penn State's 24-17 victory against Texas A&M in the Alamo Bowl in late December.
He said then he'd like to "coach 2, 3, 4 or 5 more years."
Asked if he would ever agree to a succession plan, Paterno said: "Oh, I could do it if I thought it was necessary."
Spanier, recently rewarded with a new five-year contract extension, told the trustees during their meeting two months ago that Paterno would coach the team in 2008.
"He'll be here, that's what I think," quarterback Daryll Clark said. "I don't think he's going anywhere. A lot of people who say [negative things] are people speaking from the outside. They really don't know what's going to happen.
"I feel that if something was going to happen, Joe would have probably addressed it already. He hasn't said anything."
First Published March 20, 2008 12:00 am