Coaches Todd Graham of Pitt (left) and Temple’s Steve Addazio at a news conference to promote Pennsylvania high school football.AP PHOTO
STATE COLLEGE — Penn State coach Joe Paterno pulled a veteran move at what was supposed to be a news conference with his first-year counterparts from Pitt and Temple, posing for pictures briefly before walking out the door without answering a question.
Only college football’s elder statesman could pull this off, leaving a podium at his own team’s headquarters to the head coaches from two in-state rivals.
“It’s an honor for me to spend time with him today,” Panthers coach Todd Graham said Friday, with Owls coach Steve Addazio looking on at a gathering to promote Pennsylvania high school football.
“It’s a thrill to be here, to be around him,” Graham said, “around someone who’s made that kind of impact for a long period of time.”
For the record, it’s 45 seasons and counting for the 84-year-old Paterno — more than enough time to develop a tendency the last couple years to try to shy away from offseason functions that might draw a large crowd or an ever-inquisitive group of reporters.
When it comes to football though, it’s business as usual.
On Friday, Paterno, Graham and Addazio met with a group of high school coaches to talk about plans for a Pennsylvania high school football convention, an all-star game and high school football coaches hall of fame exhibits at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia and State College.
The coaches then came to the Penn State team squad room where they all posed for photographers against the backdrop of the blue Nittany Lions logo before the high school coaches took the first turn at the microphone. Paterno walked away, briefcase in hand, saying, “These guys are doing a great job.”
A team spokesman said Paterno had another appointment.
Addazio said he would welcome a chance to establish a Penn State-Pitt-Temple round-robin series, similar to the rivalries Florida has with in-state foes Florida State and Miami.
But only Temple and Penn State currently have games scheduled against each other.
Penn State and Pitt once had a high-profile rivalry, but the two schools haven’t met since 2000. Graham said Friday he “would naturally love” to play Penn State in the future, though the topic didn’t come up Friday with Paterno.