Paterno considers shift to press box
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CHICAGO -- Joe Paterno raised more than a few eyebrows yesterday at the Big Ten football media days when he admitted he has pondered the idea of continuing to coach from the press box rather than the sideline.
"I'm not so sure that's not the better way to do it, and I've debated that," he said.
Paterno, 80, who is entering his 42nd season as the Nittany Lions' coach, spent the final two games of last season coaching from the press box after he sustained a broken left leg and torn knee ligaments in a November game against Wisconsin.
Paterno said his knee is fine, but his left leg has been bothering him.
Even so, when Penn State opens its season Sept. 1 at home against Florida International, he said in a second interview that he hopes to jog out with the rest of his team and plant himself on the sideline.
The Beaver Stadium press box could end up being an alternative.
"You can see so much more, you can do things," he said. "I tried not to interfere with the guys upstairs because they know what they're doing. But, every once in awhile, I'd drop a little note to them and say, 'Hope to get this,' or 'That corner's playing awfully tight.'
"You're really a cheerleader most of the time down on the sideline. ... I enjoyed being upstairs, I really did. I sat down, had a nice time, had a cup of coffee. I felt like a newspaper guy. I was even able to watch television."
Paterno, whose Lions have won 22 of their past 27 games, is the second all-time winningest coach in Division I history with a 363-121-3 record. Florida State's Bobby Bowden has 366 victories.
Paterno's players have a hard time believing their feisty coach will spend time in the booth.
"I really don't think he's going to be up in the press box," quarterback Anthony Morelli said.
"He has too much energy and so many years down on the sideline, I think he'd miss it too much. If he does go up in the press box, it will be maybe a one-game thing and then he'll be right back down on the sideline where he belongs."
Linebacker Dan Connor believes the team would be lost without Paterno prowling the sideline.
"He's an in-your-face type of guy," Connor said.
"He needs to be on the field. He needs to be there motivating the players. He's almost like a player. You've got to have him on the sideline. You can't have him up in the booth."
Two Big Ten coaches -- Ron Zook of Illinois and Lloyd Carr of Big Ten preseason favorite Michigan -- don't believe Paterno will work from the press box.
"I think coach Paterno is just trying to give you guys something to write about," Zook said.
"Gosh, he has forgotten more football than most of us know.
"I've spent some time with coach Paterno, and there's no doubt in my mind that he's going to be on the field when the season starts and he's going to be ready to go."
Carr has been going head-to-head with Paterno since succeeding the Gary Moeller as Michigan coach in 1995. Carr's Wolverines are 8-2 against Penn State, with eight consecutive victories.
Carr said he "would be surprised if Joe spent another second in the press box."
Then, he started laughing. On second thought, it may not be such a bad idea.
"I hope he does go up there because then he can't chew on the officials' ears for the whole game," Carr said.
First Published July 31, 2007 11:05 pm