Penn State and Joe Paterno Put Contract Talks On Hold

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- A decision on a new contract for Penn State's Joe Paterno is on hold until the end of this season, when the 81-year-old coach's current deal expires.
University president Graham Spanier told The Associated Press in an e-mail that both the school and Paterno, who is entering his record 43rd season as head coach, agree a new contract isn't necessary right now.
"We are in agreement that a contract would have little practicality given Coach Paterno's seniority. None of us see that as necessary," Spanier wrote in the e-mail Wednesday night. "Our preference is to continue to review the status of the program on an annual basis, and we will next do so at the conclusion of the 2008 season."
Administrators and Paterno have met twice recently to discuss the football program, Spanier said. The two sides typically meet each offseason, though this year's meetings are drawing more attention because of Paterno's contract.
"I wish to reiterate my continuing support for Coach Paterno," he wrote at the beginning of his e-mail, adding later that the sides would continue to "maintain open lines of communication."
"Coach Paterno has not sought, nor has the University offered, a new contract for Coach Paterno after his current contract concludes at the end of the 2008 season," he said.
With 372 wins, Paterno is one behind Florida State's Bobby Bowden for most among major college coaches.
Spanier also praised Paterno as the "most admired and accomplished football coach in America" and said he was grateful for his leadership. He said he did not anticipate making more announcements on the topic in upcoming months.
Two weeks ago, Paterno said he wasn't worried about his situation, and wasn't looking for a new contract. He said he would be comfortable going year to year.
"I don't even care if I get a contract. I'll be very frank with you," Paterno said during the spring practice news conference. "I think the university will do what they think is right, whenever the time comes. Right now, I'm very comfortable."
Paterno later added, "If I've got to have a contract to keep my job here, I'm in the wrong place." He joked he could coach "just another 10 years."
Last month, athletic director Tim Curley said there was no timetable to make decisions about Paterno's future.
During a break in a university trustees meeting in January, Spanier had said he expected Paterno to coach in 2008, but that he hadn't had chance to talk to him. Spanier also then declined to comment on potential succession plans for Paterno.
Since then, Spanier has spoken twice with Paterno, and the idea of a succession plan has also been discussed.
Late last year, Florida State signed the 78-year-old Bowden to one more year with an option for another, while also designating offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher as "head coach-in-waiting."
Purdue earlier this year also announced that newly hired associate head coach Danny Hope would succeed head coach Joe Tiller after the 2008 season.
"With regard to succession planning, I want to assure everyone that the three of us are very mindful of the importance of a smooth transition and we are very confident that will occur when we reach that point," Spanier wrote.
Spanier said he respected the plans announced by other institutions, "but we feel that each university must evaluate its own approach."
"We will be prepared when the time comes, and of course we will identify someone who would continue Penn State's values and traditions, pursuing success in a way that makes us all proud while extending the great reputation we enjoy nationally," Spanier said.
Paterno reiterated two weeks ago that he wouldn't mind seeing someone on his staff follow in his footsteps.
"Whether that's in the cards, I don't know right now. It depends on when I get out of it," Paterno said then. "If I'm going to leave tomorrow, I would hope that it's in the cards, but I'm not planning on leaving tomorrow."


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