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The Age Card

It's a fairly common exchange of phrases.  Every couple of months a reporter asks Joe how long he'll be around, every time he responds by mumbling some form of "three four five more years" and everyone just shrugs and says "fine". 

So with the increased retirement banter of this particular offseason comes an increased discussion about how Joe is hurting the program.  The most common criticism, one brought up behind his back by opposing coaches and through our TV sets by know it all ESPN analysts, is the number of recruits that are being driven away by his obviously eminent retirement.  Three Four Five Years is probably not long enough to see the class of 2009 through there four years of eligibility.

But why is this relevant?  How is Paterno's future any less certain than the other 119 coaches in D1a?

What follows is a list of coaches listed as "on the hot seat" by, who else,

Coach School W%
Ty Willingham Washington 31
Kirk Ferentz Iowa 56
Nick Saban Alabama 54
Mike Stoops Arizona 37
Greg Robinson Syracuse 20
Tim Brewster Minnesota 08
Ron Prince Kansas State 48
Randy Shannon Miami 42
Charlie Weis Notre Dame 56
Ralph Friedgen Maryland 64
Steve Kragthorpe Louisville 50
Dave Wannstedt Pitt 46
Gene Chizik Iowa State 25
Phillip Fulmer Tennessee 77
Bobby Johnson Vanderbilt 29

Now Saban has a little room because of his recruiting, but even with top 5 classes he needs to win the conference in the next three years.    Weis is somewhat protected by a very long contract and, like Saban, will probably be able to turn it around because of the talent he brings in.  He is also graced with the ability to make a BCS bowl game without having to actually beat anyone.  Fulmer should probably be removed because of the seven year extension he just signed. 

It's not that unlikely that several of these names will be out of the coaching ranks before Paterno.  Besides that, there are probably another four or five guys who are an Appalachian State away from bowing out early as well.

Going further, the guys on the other end of the spectrum aren't necessarily safe either.  Coaches like Richt, Pinkel, Rodriguez and Petrino are always a risk, especially once they start peaking, to jump for the NFL.

So when you hear things like this:

Still, some schools hold little back during the recruiting wars and do play the Paterno age card.

''In my top five, three of the [schools] mentioned it,'' four-star linebacker Mike Yancich from Washington, Pa., said.

In what way?

''They mentioned coaching stability,'' Yancich continued. ''They do mention it for recruiting purposes because they don't quite have the stature and the popularity that Penn State has, so they have to use that against them.''

Yancich would not disclose which three schools used the negative tactics. The others in his top five reportedly were Pitt, Michigan State, West Virginia and Connecticut.


''The big thing they're saying is, 'How would you relate to [Paterno]?' and 'Will he be there?''' [Gateway High School head coach and former Nittany Lion receiver Terry] Smith said.

So in light of the fact that Whanstash could be out in 6-18 months, and MSU and WVU have both changed coaches in the last two years, how can anyone take these threats seriously?
Just within the Big Ten, the 2009 season will start with exactly three coaches who have been around since pre-2005...and that is assuming Ferentz will still be a state employee after a drop in performance and a bit of a troubling couple of months "off the field" (two more stories just this weekend).
Now Paterno obviously isn't going to coach forever, mortality has its limits, but the "age card" simply doesn't hold up.  It didn't for the dozens of now-retired coaches who used it in the past, and there is no indication that even the freshest of regimes will last any longer than Paterno might going forward.