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Fans back Paterno’s plan to stay

STATE COLLEGE — Barry Rake has been a Penn State season-ticket holder since 1964 — or two years before Joe Paterno took over as head coach.

Rake isn’t ready for JoePa to call it quits, either, so he welcomed the Hall of Fame coach saying this week that he was staying on the sideline in 2011.

“Maybe the university feels the program is slipping a bit because of his age,” Rake said, “but when you look at what he’s done for Penn State University and Penn State football, he’s just earned that right to decide when he wants to stop.”

The majority of fans interviewed by The Associated Press before Saturday’s 28-22 loss to No. 11 Michigan State voiced similar support for Paterno. When asked earlier in the week at his weekly news conference, Paterno said he planned to return for his record 46th season — and that retiring was never an option.

Alex Cohen, a Penn State senior and president of the “Paternoville” student group that camps out at the stadium before home games, also backed Paterno.

“He’s going to retire when he wants to retire,” Cohen said. “He could stay here a billion years if he wants. I think he’s earned that.”

A few fans disagreed with Penn State finishing the regular season 7-5.

“At this point, he’s having trouble recruiting the top talent,” said Rick Gordon, of Hammondsport, N.Y., whose daughter is a sophomore at the school. “We should get a big name coach in here, let Joe be athletic director or some other figurehead, and let another guy take over. It’s about time.”

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