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Paterno Charms And Scolds At Big Ten Presser

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The fifteen-minute Joe Paterno press conference concluded a few moments ago.  A quick recap, for your discussion and dissection:

Is there any specific thing that will tip the balance of the quarterback competition?  Joe's not interested in making an easy decision, but a good decision.  He's going to take his time, not focus on one specific event in practice.

Thoughts on the Hall Of Fame induction?  "If you hang around long enough, they gotta do something with you."  He called it a "great honor" and went out of his way to mention that it's really an honor for those who have come through the program.

And then there's poor Jeff McLane from the Philadelphia Inquirer, who asked about Terrelle Pryor's role on this year's Ohio State's offense.  Paterno was dumbfounded and said that McLane ought to ask Jim Tressel that question.  Paterno followed that with, "I think that's a dumb question, to be honest with you.  And I know you're a Penn State graduate, but..."  Big laughs from the press pool. McLane then tried a different tack, asking "what kind of impact could he have?", which drew a sharp "I don't know!" from Paterno.  Joe also stated that Tressel has done a superb job and is an outstanding coach.  And that's that.

McLane is one of the better PSU beat writers, but that was a dumb question.

Joe's relationship with the retired Joe Tiller?  Paterno says that Tiller brought a whole new offensive concept to the Big Ten.  Tiller did it with a lot of class, but Paterno can't understand why he'd want to spend his time fishing:  "You catch three of them, they all look alike, what the hell are you gonna do..."

Does Paterno feel badgered by questions about his potential retirement?  He gets tired of answering same old question, can only say "I don't know" so many times.  He'll retire when he can't make a contribution to Penn State.  He's been there 58 years, and it's hard to get away from.  "I want to get out of it when it's appropriate and will do it the way Rip Engle did it... a lot of meat on the bones."  Joe doesn't want the questions about his job status to take away from the team.  He likes the team a lot, although a couple give him problems.  Joe's having a lot of fun but doesn't want to be too stupid about the situation and doesn't want to leave the program in a bad position.

How excited is Joe for the season as opposed to 10, 20 years ago?  Does it feel the same?  All Joe can say is how he feels today -- he feels really good healthwise, excited about team if they can get the right people in the right place at the right time.

Does he go to Tiller for advice about retirement?  "You think I'm going to go to some guy who sits on his rear end and fishes?  You're crazy!"  Tiller does it his way, Paterno does it his own way.  "Everyone is pecking away at you...unless you have enough strength [in your own character], you'll get lost.  JP teases Tiller quite a bit about retirement, and says that their wives a lot smarter than them.

Any scenario or record that would make him want to leave or come back?  "I don't know!  I don't know!  Do you want me to spell it?  You can find it on a blog tonight.  We could lose 10 games by 15 points and I could say 'we're that close'." He then made a reference to how he used to say that exact thing during The Dark Years.  "If I don't feel I'm doing a good job, I'll know."  And yes, Joe actually began spelling "I don't know" for the reporter, to universal laughs.

Finally, a question about a potential early signing period, complete with a Mike Shaw reference*.  Joe's not crazy about it, only in the sense that you would have to do a lot of official visits during the season.  Rip would say "let's take care of the guys we have, then we'll worry about the recruits" and that's always stuck with him.  Even though PSU started the early signing trend years ago, Paterno has other concerns during the season about their games and not worry about recruiting.  However, there are a lot of good reasons for early signing but he's not in favor of it.

All told, it was your standard Joe Paterno press conference.  He weaved between being jocular and cantankerous, and still has no tolerance for crappy questions.  He's also still way too smart for 95% of the reporters who inevitably try to bait Paterno into giving away too much information.  Doesn't matter if he's 82 years old -- if he doesn't think you need or deserve to know something, you're not going to trick him into spilling the beans.

Kirk Ferentz had to follow Paterno's act, and completely filibustered for the first six minutes of his 15-minute session.  For a while, I thought I was watching the U.S. Senate on C-SPAN.  Questions about the sexual assault case from the press corps?  Zero.  Amazing.  Any doubt that the reporters were instructed to not ask about it**?

Incidentally, Ferentz was followed by Rich Rodriguez, who even cracked a snake oil joke in his opening statement.  Well played, sir.

* - Oh man, the Big Ten will give anyone a press pass!  The Mike Shaw question was asked by none other than Brian Cook of MGoBlog

** - And if you were a reporter in the room, we'd love to know if there was a gag order.  Anonymously, of course.