TAMPA, Fla. – If the mounting evidence weren’t enough already, Tim Curley voiced his own belief that Joe Paterno will return to coach in 2011.
“We’re focused on getting another bowl win and then next year the prospect of a young team coming back with Joe and the staff,” Penn State’s athletic director said Wednesday.
Though Paterno has been adamant that his nagging health problems from the past year wouldn’t force him to step down as head coach, this was the first time someone from Penn State’s administration officially echoed his comments.
Curley said he hadn’t discussed next season specifically with Paterno -- that will come later in January following Saturday’s Outback Bowl matchup with Florida -- but said he fully expects the 84-year-old coach to be back for 2011, the final year on his contract.
Paterno’s health has created a firestorm of online rumors and innuendo about the coach’s future, all of which Curley is well acquainted with. Curley responded to it by saying that he and the rest of the athletic department try to follow Paterno’s lead and not let the chatter become a distraction.
“One of the things that has been a strength of Joe’s is his focus,” Curley said. “It’s really something he handles very well. He’s very focused on what we have to do, what’s in front of him and he only worries about the things he can control. That just makes it easier for all of us.”
As for Penn State’s players, all of the diverse rumors about Paterno have made for some good laughs.
“I actually heard a conspiracy theory that he had cancer,” linebacker Michael Mauti said. “And that he was all summer in some secret underground rehabilitation clinic. Or something like that.
“Which, I mean, as far as I’m concerned, could very well be true. That’s how much I don’t know about it. There’s hundreds of ’em. But yeah, that’s probably the craziest thing I’ve heard.”
“I’ve heard he’s been in the hospital a lot with heart attacks or strokes. Or both,” guard Stefen Wisniewski said, expertly laying on the sarcasm. “I heard he was down in the hospital while we down here in Tampa, too. Which, I’d be impressed, because he’s been at practice every day -- I don’t know how he has time to be at the hospital all the time.
“So, yeah. We kind of see him everyday -- I think we would’ve noticed something like that. You know, like if our coach wasn’t there. ... I get random text messages, ‘Hey, I heard Joe’s retiring.’ I would have heard before you!”
Matt McGloin will start at quarterback Saturday. After that is anyone’s guess.
Offensive coordinator Galen Hall quickly nodded Wednesday when asked if the Nittany Lions would be starting at scratch again at the position in the spring.
“Yeah. I think it’s going to be probably a little bit wide open,” Hall said. “I mean, Matt will be the leader, but I think, hey, it’s good to have competition. Competition’s going to make Matt better, it’s going to make Rob (Bolden) better, it’s going to make Paul Jones better.”
McGloin will be a junior in his fourth season with the program in 2011, while Bolden will be a true sophomore and Jones will be a redshirt freshman.
Kevin Newsome is not with the team in Tampa and is expected to transfer.
Hall said McGloin’s experience and rapport with the rest of the team will work to his advantage.
“The thing about it -- he’s been around these players for three years now,” Hall said. “So he’s got some really good friendships with them. And they like the kid.
“And not that they didn’t like Rob -- don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to draw a comparison between the two. But they like Matt. ... I just think Robert had some very bad luck. And you have to sort of go with what’s hot at that time.”