TAMPA, Fla. — A jovial Joe Paterno insists he has no plans to stop coaching after this week’s Outback Bowl.
The 84-year-old Penn State coach said during a news conference Tuesday that he “honest to goodness” has not entertained thoughts of stepping down after 45 seasons leading the Nittany Lions.
Sitting beside Florida’s Urban Meyer, Paterno called rumors he may quit after Saturday’s game against the Gators “ridiculous.” He said he feels great and is still having fun coaching.
Paterno also said he’s not happy to see Meyer leaving coaching after the Outback Bowl. Meyer announced his resignation earlier this month because of health concerns and he wants to spend more time with his family.
“I don’t know Urban’s situation,” Paterno said when asked about Meyer walking away from a program he’s led to two Southeastern Conference championships and a pair of national titles in six seasons.
“I’m being selfish when I say I hate to see guys like that leave the game,” Paterno added. “To me, I’m different than Urban. I’ve got people calling up saying: ‘When the hell are you getting out?’”
When laughter in the room subsided, Paterno continued.
“I don’t know. People think I’m going to quit this year or next year. I haven’t even thought of it,” he said. “I honest to goodness have not thought of it.
“The situation around me is very stable. The athletic director was a kid that I recruited as a walk-on, the coaches have been with me … the (school) president has been with us now maybe 14, 15 years. We have a lot of fun together. I don’t see any reason to get out. … I feel great.”
Paterno’s comments came a day after the website PennState.Scout.com quoted the coach’s wife, Sue, as saying rumors about Paterno’s health and future with the Nittany Lions were “lies.”
“Who started the crazy rumors?” Sue Paterno said. “He’s fine. No one has to identify who starts it. We don’t even know where it starts.”
The coach alluded to various internet speculation as well, saying there was talk back in State College, Pa., about him possibly being hospitalized in Hershey.
“Geez, Hershey Hospital? I was home chewing out somebody for being late for a meeting,” Paterno, the all-time bowl wins leader with 24, said. “It’s ridiculous. I don’t know when I’ll get out. I honestly don’t know.”