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Big Ten Media Day: Joe Paterno Press Conference Recap

[Link to video of Paterno's press conference, no thanks to a VERY UNCOOPERATIVE EMBED CODE, BIG TEN NETWORK, can be found here.]

Paterno looked and sounded great, immediately cracking with "and speak up, will ya, guys?" after his 15 second opening statement. He appeared a million times better than last year at this time. He noted that he's been in bad shape the past two years, citing his sideline injury against Wisconsin and his injured hip while kicking a football at practice ("I couldn't kick when I was healthy and I sure as hell couldn't kick with a broken knee"). Last year, there was a sense of dread after Paterno's Day One appearance (we forget that he was improved on the second day last August). Not this year.  He was sharp.

He's asked about the secondary -- "'Bout whose-this?" -- but basically ignores the question and goes into a statement that everyone needs to do a better job, including him.

Nebraska? Happy to have them, but he was also hoping for an eastern school like Pitt, Rutgers, or Syracuse. He fantastically pronounces it "Nebrasker".

Someone tries to hoodwink Joe into commenting on Ohio State's troubles. Joe doesn't bite, not even a little bit.

Question about "your quote-unquote so-called contract", which gets a laugh from Paterno and a " this the last year of my contract?", which gets a reciprocal laugh from the media. Paterno seizes the opening and drops in a story about Rip Engle, his flirtation with the New England Patriots, and a general rant about the influence of boosters and other outside influences. Pure filibustering cloaked in learned folksiness. Vintage Paterno.

Is this the worst college football has been with respect to rogue programs? Let's go to the transcript, helpfully provided by the PSU athletic department:

The old days when I first started to coach, I lived four blocks off the campus. We don't have a big house. We've been there for a long time, my wife and the kids. Well, the kids are all gone obviously. I used to get a telephone call from one of the campus cops would say, "Hey, coach, you better come up here and get a hold of ‘Mike.’ Too much to drink, making a lot of noise." I'd go up at 2:00 in the morning, grab Mike, put him in bed, get him up at 5:00 in the morning, run his rear-end off for a week. You guys never heard about it. Every once in a while I hear one of these guys that I know a little bit about when they were 19 and 20, I'm talking about all the kids today, they ought to go back and read Socrates. Socrates, 400 years BC, said, ‘The kids today are terrible, tyrants. They don't pay attention.’ That's 2,500 years ago, OK? Anyway, I'm shooting my mouth off too much. Let's go (laughter).

Quarterback question from Adam Rittenberg. Paterno gives away nothing. The secret to staying employed as a college football coach? Paterno's answer leads back to the infamous 2005 house call about his future:

We've had enough success that you can fool people that you're maybe a better coach than you really are. But I don't really know. I just get up and do my job. Somebody told me five or six years ago, talking to me about maybe I ought to quit, I didn't think I was ready to quit. I said, ‘If I can't get something done here in the next couple years, I'll quit.’ We had some pretty good teams in the last couple years, up until last year. Last year we weren't very good.

Finally, and rather hilariously, Paterno is completely unaware of the new taunting penalty rule (essentially making it a live-ball foul and nullifying a potential touchdown).  Not a problem for 99% of PSU players, of course.