Another decade for JoePa?

Updated: August 1, 2006, 7:09 PM ET
Associated Press

CHICAGO -- Joe Paterno has enough grandchildren to fill out one starting side of a football team and then some. There are 15 of them and they have a way of buttering up the legendary Penn State coach.

At a family reunion earlier this summer, they helped coax him, at age 79, into joining a family hike up a mountain and then back down.

"I hadn't climbed in 30 years," Paterno said Tuesday at the Big Ten football media day. "I got up to the top, but when I came down it was tough."

When his right leg started bothering him as he descended, Paterno decided it was time to have a physical. That's when he got some good news.

"The doctor says, `You can coach 10 more years," Paterno said. When he delivered the message to his staff, he said they all started shaking their heads in disbelief.

Another decade may, in reality, be out of the question, but Paterno reiterated Tuesday he's got no plans to stop what he's been doing at Penn State since 1950.

He became head coach in 1966 and is revitalized by the Nittany Lions' Big Ten title last season, an 11-1 record and an Orange Bowl win over Florida State.

"I feel great. I'm going to coach as long as I feel good about it and excited about it. It's hard for me to put a date on it. It really is," he said.

"I'm going to coach as long as I feel I can do the job."

The dean of the conference coaches had a recent phone conversation with the newest member when he chatted with 31-year-old Pat Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald was named head coach at Northwestern, his alma mater, following the death of his mentor, Randy Walker, from a heart attack earlier this summer.

Paterno already had coached at Penn State for 25 seasons -- nine as the head coach -- before Fitzgerald was born in 1974.

His advice: "I told him, put on your mirror: `I'm the boss," Paterno said, adding that Fitzgerald would now be in the position to make tough decisions that could sometimes hurt people's feelings.

"The conversation was outstanding," Fitzgerald said. "The thing I heard from every coach I visited with: You need to be genuine and you need to be who you are."

Fitzgerald was getting ready for a family vacation when Walker died June 29. One day after he eulogized Walker at a memorial service, Fitzgerald got his dream job under the most difficult circumstances imaginable.

"You're never prepared for something like this, never prepared for losing a friend," Fitzgerald said. "Especially as vibrant as coach Walker was." ^Notes:@ Ohio State, Michigan and Iowa were picked 1-2-3 in a preseason poll of media members. "How legitimate is it? I don't know that we know the answer to that," said Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, who has guided the Buckeyes to four straight bowl wins, including a national championship. "We'll find out by the end of November. It's always nice to be mentioned." ... Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith was named preseason offensive player of the year and Penn State linebacker Paul Posluszny the preseason defensive player of the year. ... Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said he's hoping the Big Ten Channel, which will launch in 2007, will go national and be part of basic cable packages. Delany said he would not be in favor of playing conference games on Thursday and Friday nights to make it more attractive. ... Delany said the conference was studying a league-wide system to test for performance enhancing drugs and that it could be in place by 2007-08. "I don't feel comfortable that we are where we needed to be. As a result, we started studying about a year ago," he said.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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