Penn State Football: Like It or Not, Joe Paterno Announces Return in 2011

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Penn State Football: Like It or Not, Joe Paterno Announces Return in 2011
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Joe Paterno announced the obvious Tuesday at his weekly press gathering at Beaver Stadium: The 83-year-old legend said that he would be back for the 2011 season. 

Paterno's pronouncement is on par with NASA announcing that the sun will rise in the East again tomorrow morning or that the Navy said it had conclusive proof that water is indeed wet.

This season was a prescription for disaster from even before its outset: From a team awash in green freshmen and a coach who spent the summer battling an illness that often kills folks his age, the Lions and their leader were staring disaster in the face long before the first team meeting of the fall. 

The fact that Paterno enters the final game of the regular season with a better-than-ever chance of playing in a bowl game on New Year's Day and has gotten healthier as the season has worn on is just this side of miraculous. 

Add to that the second announcement out of Happy Valley on Tuesday, that three members of Paterno's squad had been named Academic All-Americans and it's pretty obvious the Grand Experiment is alive and well. 

The worst the Nittany Lions can do is 7-5 with a trip to a decent bowl game. Think Mack Brown wouldn't take that? Paterno's troop of freshmen got better as the season progressed, despite his training room looking most days like the set of M*A*S*H. 

Think Urban Meyer would take that?

About the only disconcerting issue left unresolved after today is the future. 

Paterno has only one year left on his "contract," although it can be extended through mutual consent with Penn State President Graham Spanier. Paterno balked at a "coach in waiting" scenario years ago, saying that Florida State's would someday blow up in their faces (it did). 

There is nothing in his contract that stipulates who from his coaching staff might be elevated, despite veiled promises that Joe would make sure that his loyal assistants would be taken care of.

In addition, there is a growing push from within the university community, lead by former player and member of the university's Board of Trustees Dave Joyner, to spend huge sums of money to bring in the next coach from outside the program. Something like spending $3 million a year to bring in Chris Petersen from Boise State and the academic results be damned.  

Joyner has the ears of some influential and rich people associated with Penn State, who would like to impose their will on the football program, something that has occurred on Paterno's watch and hasn't worked well at all in several places, like Michigan; also, see Alabama/pre-Saban era. 

Paterno hates thinking about the future of his program without him at the helm, but if he were ever to spend some serious time on it, this offseason would not be soon enough. 

Joe still has enough clout left to appoint his successor and keep it under wraps until the day that it is needed.

It would be another small way in which he could repay the loyalty that has been shown him by talented men who could have gone elsewhere decades ago.

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