Joe Paterno met with the media at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago on Thursday. See what PSU's head coach had to say on a variety of topics here.

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Penn State head coach Joe Paterno.

COACH PATERNO: Good to see all of you here. Looking forward to another great college football season. I'm excited about it. Hope we're going to be a little better than we were last year, but we'll find out.

About that, I'll take any questions. And speak up what you do, will you, guys (laughter)?

Q. Joe, could you compare the way your physical condition to a year ago at this time?

COACH PATERNO: I feel a lot better than I did a year ago. I had two tough years physically. The kid from Wisconsin running into me in the sideline, when I broke my knee that time. Then I threw my hip out showing off, trying to show the kids how to kick a football. I couldn't kick when I was healthy. I sure as hell couldn't kick with a broken knee.

But anyway...

I feel good. I'm back to doing a lot of things I used to do, walking a lot more. I've been watching what I eat. I feel good. I enjoyed this spring, have a lot more enthusiasm.

I've got an old saying that I had forgotten. They asked Marv Levy one time when he was coaching, he was a great coach, he said, How about your age? Marv said, I don't think age is a factor. He said, I'm old enough to know my limitations and I'm young enough to know how to handle 'em.

So, anyway, I feel good. That's a long answer to a nice, simple question.

Q. Talk about your secondary, your defensive backs.

COACH PATERNO: I don't like to get into personalities right now. I think we got a lot of work ahead of us. We haven't had any pre-season practice yet. I think we have a chance to have some people that can play well. I don't think we played very well last year. I don't think I did a very good job coaching last year, to be frank with you. I've got to do a better job. Everybody's got to do a better job.

We have to set maybe a little higher bar as far as our standard goes. I'm not really going to get into some of that stuff.

Q. Can you comment on the changes the Big Ten Conference has made and the prospects of playing in the championship game?

COACH PATERNO: I think the conference, one thing I feel extremely good about is the fact that Nebraska is in it. I think most people know I was trying to get another eastern team in the Big Ten. I was hoping we could either get Rutgers or Pitt or Syracuse because it would be more convenient for us as far as the media and things like that. When we got Nebraska, that was a real coup. It's going to make the league tougher.

The tougher the other guy is, the better you get, if you're a competitor. I think bringing Nebraska in was a real big asset and I think the league's great. And the fact that it gave us an opportunity to play for a conference championship game, I think it's kind of exciting, it really is. It's something we want to do. If we end up winning the division in a big game in Indianapolis, I think that's great. It will be fun and something I look forward to.

Q. Ohio State has been one of your big rivals for the last several years. I'm curious to get your thoughts on the turmoil they've experienced over the last few months.

COACH PATERNO: You guys have talked. I don't know enough about it. Ohio State to me has been a great, great, great college football program through the years. For all of a sudden, now there's something going on out there, I don't know. I don't know enough about it. I sure as heck don't want to start being critical of situations when I'm not that familiar with them.

I try not to even read anything about it. I try to make sure we're doing what we're supposed to do, period. If we do what we're supposed to do, I worry more about answering the question about whether we're going to have an opportunity to play for the conference championship. Those are the kinds of things I think about.

Q. This is the last year of your 'contract.' I wondered, how do you feel and what are your future plans?

COACH PATERNO: Well, I feel great. I really do. Is this the last year of my contract (laughter)? I don't even know I got a contract. I don't pay attention to that.

You know when I got the job. I was 16 years assistant coach at Penn State. Rip Engle came in and said to me, I think I'm going to retire and I think you have a good shot at the game. Rip had been my college coach when I played at Brown University. The athletic director was Ernie McCoy, who at one time had been the assistant athletic director for Michigan, had been the basketball coach at Michigan, and had been an assistant football coach at Michigan.

In those days the athletic department used to report to the dean of the college physical ed before we had kinesiology. It's not physical education anymore.

He called me in the office and he said, Rip is retiring.

I said, Yeah, he told me.

He said, Do you want this job?

I said, Yeah.

He said, Okay, it's yours.

I said, That's great.

He said, 10 thousand bucks a year. He said, I'm teasing, 20 thousand you're getting. Never signed a contract.

Four, five years later when the Patriots were fooling around with me, they called me in and said, We better sign a contract. So a guy by the name of Patterson was vice president in charge of business. He said, We're going to go out to Pittsburgh, get a contract.

I said, Why do I have to go? You guys write up the contract, bring it back, I'll sign it.

Having said that, this day and age, the one thing I am really uptight about, there's too many people who are not involved in the day in, day out operations of a college athletic program that have too much to say. That's trustees, the boosters, media. There's a lot of people influencing decisions that are made because we have coaches getting fired, backup coaches, all those things that didn't exist when I was coming up the ladder.

It's a whole different ballgame. But that's the way it went.

I've probably got a year on a contract. But I feel great, I really do. I'm kind of excited.

Q. Joe, with all the scandals, the number of schools on probation recent, is this one of the worst stretches in college football?

COACH PATERNO: I'm not sure I know what you mean by 'the worst' what?

Q. The number of scandals in college football.

COACH PATERNO: Geez, we've always had problems. You're going to have problems when you have the type of competition that's going on.

I tell a story. The old days when I first started to coach, I lived four blocks off the campus. We don't have a big house. We've been there for a long time, my wife and the kids. Well, the kids are all gone obviously. I used to get a telephone call from one of the campus cops would say, Hey, coach, you better come up here and get ahold of Mike. Too much to drink, making a lot of noise.

I'd go up at 2:00 in the morning, grab Mike, put him in bed, get him up at 5:00 in the morning, run his rear-end off for a week. You guys never heard about it.

Every once in a while I hear one of these guys that I know a little bit about when they were 19 and 20, I'm talking about all the kids today, they ought to go back and read Socrates. Socrates, 400 years BC, said, The kids today are terrible, tyrants. They don't pay attention. That's 2500 years ago, okay?

Anyway, I'm shooting my mouth off too much. Let's go (laughter).

Q. Joe, what do you expect out of your quarterbacks when you start camp, specifically Rob Bolden?

COACH PATERNO: At quarterback? I think we'll be better. Whether we're going to be good enough, I don't know. We had two, three kids that had good springs. We're not allowed to watch them in pre-season. I got in a jam because I'm walking by, the kids are running around, I walk by and watch them. I mentioned that on some TV show I was on. We had to turn ourselves in. I'm not even supposed to watch them run. I don't know how they're doing this summer.

Everybody seems to be enthused. The quarterbacks, they'll stop by the office every once in a while. I'll say, How you doing? Are your studies okay? That kind of stuff. How things going? But I think we're going to be better there. We'll see.

Q. With all the coaches' changes we've seen in the Big Ten and throughout the NCAA this year, what is the secret to keeping your job in this profession for so long?

COACH PATERNO: Well, you know, we don't have as many of you guys around as some of these other guys. That helps. We're in that little town up there in State College.

No, I don't know. I think the environment in our place may be a little bit different as far as people who have some impact on who is going to coach, who is not going to coach. I think that's had something to do with it.

We've had enough success that you can fool people that you're maybe a better coach than you really are. But I don't really know. I just get up and do my job. Somebody told me five or six years ago, talking to me about maybe I ought to quit, I didn't think I was ready to quit. I said, If I can't get something done here in the next couple years, I'll quit. We got some pretty good teams in the last couple years, up till last year. Last year we weren't very good.

Q. You mentioned that there may have been some episodes of player misbehavior, but never major rule violations at Penn State with you as coach. Why and how have you been able to avoid that?

COACH PATERNO: Oh, boy. Maybe we're lucky. I don't know. What the good Lord said, don't be the first one to cast the rock. I preach all the time. I tell our alumni all the time, Stay out of it. We try to keep them informed as to what they can do legally, what they can't do legally. I'm constantly talking to the staff about, Hey, every once in a while they'll come back and say, Hey, so-and-so is doing this, so-and-so is doing that.

I go back to what Rip used to tell me when I was an assistant coach. He used to say when I'd come back all upset, maybe I was trying to recruit some hot shot, I lost him, I'd be all upset. He would say, Hey, Joe, don't worry about the guys we lose, only make sure that the guys you bring in here belong here, and they're coming here for the right reasons.

That's probably been something that I preach all the time to the staff. If somebody wants to horse around with something, or he suggests that maybe he wants something, walk away, walk away. That doesn't mean we've always walked away. I try to keep track of it. It's nice to know we haven't had a major violation. I'm proud of that. I'm not going around gloating about it.

Q. What is your feeling about the strengthening of the taunting rule, the prospect of possibly taking points off the scoreboard?

COACH PATERNO: Taking plays off the scoreboard?

Q. They're talking about strengthening the taunting rules. Do you think they're strong enough now as far as how they penalize the teams right now? It's stronger than it is in the NFL. Are you satisfied with how they are?

COACH PATERNO: That's the first time I've heard that's a possibility in our game. To be frank with you, I'm not sure what's going on in the pro leagues. I don't pay much attention to what's going on in pro football. That's not to be blasé about a great game. I have enough troubles trying to keep up with these young coaches in college football. I think college football has so many great young coaches today compared to when I started. The coaching is phenomenal, what they're doing.

I don't know the consequences of what might happen when they do that.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks a lot, Coach Paterno.

COACH PATERNO: Thanks, guys.


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