Paterno Meets the Press

We kick off our on-location coverage of the Orange Bowl matchup between Penn State and Florida State with a rundown of the coaches press conference Thursday morning in Fort Lauderdale. Also included is a video clip of Penn State's Joe Paterno talking about Derrick Williams, the PSU administration and is infamous encounter with a horse.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Usually, it's the coaches who don't go to bowl games who face scrutiny about their future. But not always. When Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden addressed reporters Thursday morning to promote their upcoming Orange Bowl matchup, much of the discussion centered on how much longer the two icons plan on spearheading their respective programs.

See The Joe Paterno Video.

Paterno, who turned 79 earlier this month, insisted he has no plans to step down.

“I don't want to give anybody the idea that I'm thinking about getting out of it, because I'm not,” he said. “The good Lord is someday probably going to sit me down and say, 'Hey, you're too damn old for this.' Or something. We'll see.”

Paterno, whose current contract expires after the 2008 season, did address his succession, saying he wants Penn State's next coach to come from within the program. And he addressed speculation that he is hoping to hand the reins to son Jay Paterno, the Nittany Lions' quarterbacks coach, explaining that “I think there are other people there who have more experience.” But he declined to discuss a story in last Sunday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that detailed a meeting in his home with school officials who wanted to talk to him about stepping down.

In contrast to Paterno, whose I've-got-things-to-do demeanor put a bit of a damper on his portion of the 90-minute news conference, Bowden told jokes, spun stories and entertained one question after another about his future at Florida State, where he has coached since 1976.

Bowden, 76, admitted he is driven in part by memories of Bear Bryant, who died only a month after his retirement following the 1982 season. Bowden grew up in Alabama and was an admirer of the legendary coach. He's often joked about there being only one life milestone to go after retirement.

“I kid about it, but I've kidded about it so much I'm beginning to believe it,” Bowden said. “Coach Bryant retired and died a month later. Before that I saw my father retire early and die a year later. That's not always going to happen, thank goodness. But I think if I got out of coaching, I'd go and find another job somewhere. If I didn't, I'm afraid I'd wilt on the vine.”

Given the vast life experience of its participants, it was hardly surprising that the news conference veered in many odd directions, or that a number of historical figures were referenced. Among the old-school names the two coaches dropped: Bobby Dodd, Rip Engle, Vince Lombardi and Pancho Villa.

Grumpy at first, Paterno warmed up as his 45-minute session went on. He talked about his father's influence, his hopes of working with inner-city youth after his retirement, and even his immortal confrontation with Florida State's Chief Osceola at the 1990 Blockbuster Bowl.

But he eventually returned to the task at hand and the players who will be a part of Penn State's first BCS game. Said Paterno: “I want them to enjoy it.”

In other news...

• The press conference was held before news broke of FSU defensive end A.J. Nicholson being accused of sexually assaulting a woman in Hollywood, Fla., hotel early Thursday morning. We'll have more on this story as it develops.

• Unhappy with Penn State's past two practices, Paterno said he believes the team may have left for Florida too early. The Lions departed for the Orange Bowl on Dec. 20 and have been in Miami since Dec. 24.

“I'm a little nervous. This is as long as we've ever been at a bowl site,” he said. “Trying to work around the Christmas holiday, I'm a little concerned about that. We have not practiced well the last two days. … We still look tired. We're only going to go for about an hour [Thursday].”

• Paterno said freshman receiver Derrick Williams has been “running around” in practice but would probably not play in the Orange Bowl. Williams missed the Lions' last four regular-season games after his left arm was broken against Michigan.

“He wants to play,” Paterno said. “But the doctors are concerned. He had a very severe broken arm, and they're worried that if we did something with him, there could be nerve damage. I don't think it's worth [risking] the kid's future. He's got a great future.”

• Bowden said he hoped senior defensive end Kamerion Wimbley would be able to play against Penn State. Wimbley had 7.5 sacks before missing the team's last three games with a knee injury.

Bowden added that freshman guard Cornelius Lewis was limping in practice but that he might play as well. Lewis started three of the team's last four games at right guard.

• Orange Bowl officials announced an agreement with Dolphins Stadium that will place the game in the multipurpose facility for the next eight seasons, with an option for four more seasons. The Orange Bowl will play host to the 2009 BCS national title game.

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