Nittany Notes: Rumor Control

Letting you know what we know about the latest scuttlebutt concerning Penn State football. Find out what happened in a couple of important meetings Friday, right here in the latest edition of our exclusive Nittany Notes.

Rumors are flying about the Penn State football program these days. Has a certain legendary coach really been struggling with an illness? Is the same coach, who is now in the final year of his contract, on the verge of being muscled out by the administration? And why do PSU players break out coughing in the middle of squad meetings?

OK, so no one is really asking that third question. But we have an answer for it, just the same. We also do our best to let you know what we know about the state of Penn State football in the latest edition of Nittany Notes.

The following is based largely on what we dug up regarding two closed-door meetings Friday. One was a squad meeting for the Nittany Lion coaches and players. The other was an executive session of the school's Board of Trustees, where it discussed matters in private with Penn State president Dr. Graham Spanier.

Here is what our observers said about each meeting:

EXECUTIVE SESSION

• Spanier spoke to the Board of Trustees twice Friday, once in a public session and again in the private “executive session.” In the former, according to the Centre Daily Times, he reported that Penn State football coach Joe Paterno is in the final year of his contract, that he expects Paterno to coach in 2008 and that he has not had formal discussions with Paterno about what will happen after 2008.

• In the private session, according to an observer, “nothing spectacular” happened. The board basically told Spanier that since this is such a high-profile issue, its wants to make sure the situation is handled delicately. “They don't want it messy,” the observer said. The general feeling after the session is that the board has Spanier's back but is still mindful of Paterno's iconic status, and is counting on the president to navigate his way through any potentially rough waters.

SQUAD MEETING

• Paterno made his first extended appearance at Lasch Building since Jan. 3. He had been working almost exclusively from home while recovering from what observers called “a nasty bug.” Observers said he looked slightly under the weather Friday, “but not particularly bad or good.”

• The meeting started around 2:45 p.m. and lasted about 40 minutes. Paterno spent a good deal of the time talking to the players about staying out of trouble. According to our observers, he hit on the familiar theme that they are living under a microscope and everything they do will be closely scrutinized, and that they have to look out for themselves and each other.

• Paterno also talked a lot about players doing well in school, according to observers. One said the overall tone of the meeting was less about X's and O's and more about “just being Penn State kids, and what that means.”

• Otherwise, the meeting was “just like the start of any other year,” according to one observer. We were told Paterno did not discuss his illness or his contract situation.

• Assistant coaches Kermitt Bugg and Ron Vanderlinden were not at the squad meeting. They were still traveling back to State College after making recruiting trips.

• Assistant coach Dick Anderson's cell phone went off during the meeting, and rang three or four times before he got it. But there was a funny twist to this, according to a couple of observers. Players can get in trouble if their cell phones ring during meetings, so to protect each other they'll cough when one mistakenly goes off, trying to drown out the sound. When Anderson's cell went off, several players started coughing.

• We were told that defensive tackle Chris Baker and linebacker Navorro Bowman both attended the meeting. Earlier in the week, the duo was bound over for trial on aggravated assault charges stemming from an on-campus fight in October. On Friday, the CDT reported that the Centre County District Attorney's office was seeking revocation of Baker's bail because the latest alleged offense happened while he was free on bail for a previously alleged felony.

SHORT SHOTS

• FOS' Cory James reports that it is still not clear if Paterno will be traveling to see recruits between now and letter-of-intent day (Feb. 6). As of now, James said, Paterno is not scheduled to make any trips. But that could change. He added that Penn State, which has 12 commitments, will probably add only four more members to this class.

• James also said recruits Kenny Tate and A.J. Price arrived at Lasch Building later in the afternoon and were not on hand for the squad meeting.

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