State College, Pa. — Joe Paterno plans to return as Penn State coach next season, ending the latest round of speculation about retirement.
The Nittany Lions meet No. 11 Michigan State in the regular-season finale Saturday, and some fans and members of the media were wondering if this would be the 83-year-old Hall of Famer’s final appearance at Beaver Stadium. Illness slowed him down in the offseason, and the Nittany Lions’ midseason stumbles even had some fans griping for change.
The rumor mill churned anew in recent weeks, but major college football’s winningest coach said Tuesday at Beaver Stadium he hadn’t even given thought to leaving a job he’s held a record 45 seasons.
“I had no intentions, and I’ve never indicated to anybody, including myself, that I was not coming back,” he said on the Big Ten coaches teleconference. “No, it’s always been in my mind that now is not the time to go. I think we’ve got a good young team. They may not be there yet but they will be soon.”
And with Paterno leading them again. He turns 84 on Dec. 21.
“Joe Paterno publicly confirms what we suspected all along — he will be back coaching Penn State in 2011,” son and quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno tweeted.
Speculating about Paterno’s future is an end-of-season ritual in Happy Valley. The 2011 season would be the last year of a three-year extension.
When asked, Paterno said returning was “entirely my call. ... But I would hope that what I want to do would be taken into consideration and go from there.”