KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa. -- Off-field issues have managed to do
to Joe Paterno what four decades as Penn State's head coach never
really could: tire him out.
"I have to fight sometimes to get out of bed," Paterno said
Monday night. "It's been a long year. But in a lot of ways, it's
been a good year."
It just hasn't been so good at times lately.
The 80-year-old Paterno, still recovering from a violent
sideline collision last season, called an off-campus confrontation
involving a few of his Penn State players a "team embarrassment."
And soon, the number associated with his name might not be his
363 career wins, but his salary.
Even when he's swarmed by former players and fans, it's not
always easy being "JoePa."
Paterno, men's basketball coach Ed DeChellis and women's hoops
coach Coquese Washington visited this town 20 miles west outside
Philadelphia to meet the media, and fans and alumni. Paterno
cracked some jokes and assured everyone his health was fine, but a
trial for two of his players still weighed on the coach.
While charges were dismissed against four players,
Anthony Scirrotto and Chris Baker were ordered to stand trial after
authorities said they were involved in an off-campus fight.
Scirrotto and Baker face charges including burglary, criminal
trespass, simple assault and harassment.
Paterno said he heard Scirrotto's side of the story and the
coach described it as a "little skirmish downtown."
"He got a little irate, called up a couple of his buddies and
said, 'Hey, come on down.' They went over there and they got in a
fight," he said.
A formal arraignment is scheduled within a few weeks, and
Scirrotto's attorney said a trial date would likely be set for
early August -- about the time Penn State begins preseason practice.
"My biggest concern is what's going to come out of that
incident that we had," Paterno said. "I'm hopeful that people
will keep their heads, won't go overboard on it. What it basically
comes down to is, it was a fight. I'm not condoning our kids in
While a possible punishment in the courts is still to be
decided, Paterno already handed one down to the entire team: The
Nittany Lions will clean Beaver Stadium on the Sunday's after every
home game. Paterno also said all of his players would do several
hours of community service.
"I don't condone it. Our kids were wrong," Paterno said.
While that could be enough to wear down Paterno, he's still
ready to start season No. 42 with the Nittany Lions on the sideline
and close to the action.
A broken right leg and torn knee ligaments suffered when he was
run over by a player during a game at Wisconsin in November caused
Paterno to miss a game and coach the Outback Bowl from a coach's
Paterno admits he may feel some apprehension when he stands on
the sideline for the first time since that collision when Penn
State plays Florida International on Sept. 1.
"I've been in practice. I went to all the practices, moved
around the practice field and got involved in some drills," said
Paterno, who can break Amos Alonzo Stagg's record for the most
years coaching at one school this season. Stagg led the University
of Chicago from 1892 to 1932.
Paterno said he can't run yet, but hoped to start sometime this
summer. He wears down easily, but insisted he's otherwise fine,
saying he recently walked about 55 minutes up and down trails and
hills near his house.
Paterno even spends less time in his office, but not because of
health issues or because he's thinking of winding down after all
this time. No, Paterno simply has too many fans popping in to check
up on him.
"So many people come up, I can't get anything done," Paterno
said, prompting chuckles.
Maybe they're just poking around to find out how much he makes.
Penn State will not disclose the salaries of its administrators
and employees, and has tried to block an attempt by a reporter for
the Patriot-News of Harrisburg to find out the salary of Paterno
and three top administrators.
The state Supreme Court heard arguments earlier this month on
whether secret salaries of Penn State employees, including Paterno,
should be released to the public.
"I don't care whether they release it or don't release it,"
Paterno said. "I don't care if they find out I made 5, 6 million
bucks a year. That's fine. Putting up with [the media], I guess I