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It's official: Paterno agrees to contract extension

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Penn State just issued a statement confirming that the school and head coach Joe Paterno have agreed to a contract extension through the 2011 season. This fall, Paterno led Penn State to an 11-1 record and a share of the Big Ten title in his 43rd year as Nittany Lions head coach.

Here's the full statement from Penn State:

University President Graham Spanier and Athletic Director Tim Curley announced today an agreement that will provide for the opportunity of Coach Joe Paterno leading the football program through the 2011 season. It was also agreed that the parties might re-evaluate their circumstances and alter the arrangement by either shortening or extending its length as necessary.

Not sure what the last sentence means exactly, but it probably gives Spanier and Curley some leverage if things go south for the program. It's hard to imagine Paterno, who turns 82 on Sunday, coaching until he's 85 years old. Then again, who expected him to still be going strong right now? But the length of contract likely is for recruiting purposes so incoming players aren't concerned about an immediate change.

Paterno's current contract was set to expire following Penn State's appearance in the Rose Bowl. The coach underwent hip-replacement surgery Nov. 23 after spending Penn State's final seven games in the press box. He hopes to return to the sideline in Pasadena.

The statement doesn't mention any succession plan for Paterno. Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley is the obvious choice and deserves to be named coach in waiting, but neither Paterno nor the university has given any indication such a strategy will be put in place.

Here's what Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark told me earlier today about Paterno, before the extension had been reported.

"He's been around," Clark said. "He knows what to do, when to do it and how to do it. That's one of the biggest advantages we have. We have such a veteran, legendary coach that knows what to do. He's been intense every single week. His consistency is very good.

"Despite him being in a golf cart at practice, he's still there every step of the way. He's in your face when something is going bad, he congratulates you when things are going right. He hasn't lost a step."