After beating Texas A&M 24-17 in the Alamo Bowl Saturday, Paterno wanted an informal meeting with the media at the Sunday press conference in the Nittany Lions' team hotel, the Marriott Riverwalk.
The conference room was initially set up for a formal PC, but a podium and table were quickly swept to the side. Paterno sat in a single chair in the front of the room, and reporters — notebooks in hand — fanned out in a semicircle of chairs around him.
The press conference was so laid back that in the middle of it, the coach's wife, Sue, interrupted and asked if he could give her a key to their hotel room. Paterno introduced her to the group.
Here are some of the other things he had to say.
Though his contract expires following the 2008 season, Paterno said he is not concerned by the situation. I don't even know what was in my contract, he said. He added that the only time he even thinks about the contract is when reporters bring it up. Then he was pressed on whether he was concerned over what might happen to his assistant coaches if he were to retire or not be renewed. He said he thinks he and athletic director Tim Curley are on the same page there. Penn State is unique and I don't want to sound snobbish. But we've been very fortunate. I feel confident that when I do get out the guys who helped us be successful are taken care of. Paterno said he believes he can get the university to promise it will make sure his assistants are treated fairly during any transition if I thought that was necessary. In the end, he wants to do what's best for Penn State and in the process do what's best for my staff.
Paterno said a focus in the off-season will be on how to stem the off-field issues that plagued the team in 2007. Overall, he feels he has a great bunch of players, but that a handful of younger athletes are too cocky. As he has mentioned in the past, he said it is more difficult to deal with off-field problems now because everything is played out in the public eye. He is going to bring in some of the veteran players to see how he can do a better job of getting across the message. They have to understand it is a different world they've got to be able to walk away from things. I have to go back home and knock some heads.
The 81-year-old Paterno said the 2007 season was a very, very difficult year for me physically. He said recovering from a broken left leg sustained last year caused him to favor his right leg, which now bothers him. Also, he said recovering from the initial injury caused him to pick his spots on when and where he spent his time walking. Because he was so focused on preparing his team, he did not spend as much time as he usually does walking to stay in shape, and that after three-hour practices his legs were extremely sore. He is looking forward to taking some time off after the recruiting season to recharge.
The Lions currently have 12 verbal commitments for their Class of 2008. Paterno said he would like to bring in 15 or 16 players overall, including a quarterback or two. He said though his legs are sore, he intends to travel more during the key January recruiting period this year. I can only baby myself so long. I've got to get to work. He was asked if he was tired of recruiting and quickly said no. I like recruiting. Recruiting is easy for me. He said he enjoys meeting kids and families, and visiting schools.
He was asked about the performance of backup quarterback Daryll Clark in the Alamo Bowl (Clark carried six times for 50 yards and a score), and said he thought about doing more of that during the regular season but did not because he did not think it would have been fair to starter Anthony Morelli. But he struck down any thought that Clark is a lock to start next season. There's going to be some competition at quarterback, he said, and mentioned that current redshirt freshman Pat Devlin is going to go out there and compete. Devlin is a heck of a prospect.
He was asked about his son, PSU quarterback's coach Jay Paterno, possibly going to another school to expand his horizons. It would be hard for us to lose Jay, as a family, he said, then added, but that's up to Jay. He reiterated the confidence he has in his son. He's got the ability to be a head coach. But I don't think Penn State would be the place for him because it would be [seen] as if I organized the whole thing. Paterno said he does not expect any more changes to his staff following the departure of safeties coach Brian Norwood. But who knows? He said he kept Kermitt Buggs in an administrative position because he liked his potential as a coach, and feels fortunate he was able to plug Buggs into Norwood's old spot.
On a related note, he was asked about Galen Hall and Jay Paterno sharing the role of offensive coordinator at Penn State — a common perception because both have key rolls in the play-calling — but quickly shot that down. Galen is the offensive coordinator. If Galen doesn't want something done, it doesn't get done.
He has not talked to junior cornerback Justin King about possibly entering the NFL Draft early. He said when King gets close to making a decision, he'll get good advice from his stepfather, former Lion Terry Smith. Paterno believes the two will talk to him before making the decision.
He was asked about defensive tackle Chris Baker, who missed the trip to San Antonio. Baker is facing multiple felony charges in connection with two separate fights since last April. Paterno initially said, Baker will be all right. He later added Baker likes to be a center of attention, and it obviously can get him into trouble.
He was asked about former PSU running back Austin Scott, who missed most of the 2007 season after being charged with rape. Scott still faces the charges. He said Scott made his own bed, and declined further comment.
He was asked about redshirt freshman defensive tackle Tom McEowen, who did not make the trip to San Antonio. He said there were several issues there, but that We'll work that out when we get back to Pennsylvania.
He has not thought about picking captains for next season yet. That's up to the kids, he said. On that front, he said the team is really going to miss outgoing senior captain and wideout Terrell Golden. Golden was a very, very strong leader.