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Joe Paterno Will Coach In 2011

Friday was "the meeting" that Joe Paterno has every year with athletic director Tim Curley and Penn State president Graham Spanier where the men discuss the season and the direction of the program going forward. A lot of Penn State fans are hoping this would be the year where Spanier and Curley put pressure on Paterno to finally hang it up and let someone else lead the program. Well, a lot of Penn State fans are going to be disappointed because all three men agreed that Joe Paterno will return to coach in 2011.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP)—Joe Paterno has met with Penn State President Graham Spanier and athletic director Tim Curley for their annual end-of-season review.

Bill Mahon, a spokesman for Spanier, said Saturday night the trio had an "excellent discussion" Friday about the status of the football program, and that the 84-year-old Paterno did indeed plan to coach next season.

Speculation around Joe Paterno has been swirling all season long. It started in August when he showed up to the BIg Ten media day looking pale and weak. Since then every public appearance has been picked apart. How did he look? What did he say? Some days he looked sharp and refreshed. Other days he looked tired and confused.

A few weeks ago when "the email" was floating around claiming Paterno has stomach cancer and suffering mini-strokes and he was planning to step down after the Outback Bowl, my wife asked me what I thought was going to happen. I told her then that Paterno clearly said before the Michigan State game that he planned to return.

Q. Joe, do you plan to return as coach next season?

COACH PATERNO: Yeah, why you got something I don't know? No, I am looking forward to it. I think we've struggled a little bit this year, with the youth and with the injuries and the whole bit.

We're not where I would like us to be yet. But, I think with a good spring and a pre-season practice, we could be a pretty good football team next year, and I'd like to be part of it.

So who was I to doubt the man? With all of the speculation running around the message boards, right there was the most credible source right in front of us.

Paterno's contract expires at the end of the 2011 season. Normally, this is the time when contract extensions occur so the athletic department can show confidence in the coach and his staff. This is critical when you are recruiting kids and asking them to commit the next four years of their lives to your coach and program. However, Paterno has coached without a contract before so it's not as big a deal at Penn State. Besides, I think even most high school kids are smart enough to realize the chances of Joe Paterno being around to shake their hand on senior day are pretty slim.

So for now it appears Paterno will be back in 2011, but things could still change. Rumors are flying about Tom Bradley interviewing for the vacant jobs at Pitt and UConn. If Scrap is fortunate enough to land one of those jobs, he could very well take a few Penn State assistants with him. A mass exodus of young assistant coaches could be enough to make Paterno let go. He has often said his big concern was the fate of his assistant coaches. If Bradley took Larry Johnson Sr., Mike McQueary, and Ron Vanderlinden with him that would create a big rebuilding project for Paterno. If he retired, Galen Hall and Dick Anderson would certainly join him, so that would only leave a small handful of assistant coaches without a place to land. However, one of them would be his own son, Jay. But Jay is young enough he would surely find a job somewhere. Besides, getting away from Penn State might actually be good for his career.

But for now, it appears the JoePa haters will have to dig in and stick it out another year.