JOE PATERNO'S 82nd birthday is Sunday. How's this for a present: a 3-year contract extension.
The agreement between Paterno and Penn State was announced in an oddly worded statement released yesterday by the university's athletic department.
Here is the statement, in its entirety: "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."
Translation: Paterno is the coach for 3 more years, or the whole situation can be revisited after next season, or he can coach forever.
It might not have been the clear-cut extension Paterno wanted, but it means he will continue coaching his beloved Nittany Lions, as he has done for more than half of his life.
And for Paterno, who will begin his 44th season as head coach next year, it caps off a remarkable season that saw him endure understandable speculation over his future, a hip injury suffered on Aug. 28 that forced him into the upstairs coaches' box most of the season and hip-replacement surgery the day after the regular-season finale.
On the field, Paterno's team went 11-1, won the Big Ten championship and will play Southern California in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1. Penn State is ranked sixth in the country.
The Nits' 2008 success had to be a major selling point for Paterno in his quest to continue coaching, given that Spanier was not believed to be in Paterno's corner.
It was inconceivable to some Nits fans that Paterno would need an administrative ally to continue his career. His record is 383-126-3, making him major college football's all-time winningest coach. He started coaching at PSU in 1950 as an assistant to Rip Engle. He became head coach in 1966.
Paterno did not release a statement last night. Assistant athletic director for communications Jeff Nelson said there would not be any further statements last night.
At a media-day event last week on campus, Paterno was asked whether he hoped to have his contract resolved before the Rose Bowl.
"Well, if we get it, fine," Paterno said. "You guys are more concerned about things than I am. I think that . . . the university will be fair to me . . . If we can work out something that they are comfortable with and I'm comfortable with before the bowl, fine."
Paterno also talked about recruiting last week and how his contract uncertainty could affect recruits.
"I just get tired of recruits asking me, 'How long are you going to be there?' " he said. "But most of them are fine. And we've had a good year recruiting. We have a couple of kids that haven't announced it yet that are really going to add to our program, and we have a couple more we are close with. I think it's worked out all right."
Paterno also was asked how long he might coach, given that he said he hoped to coach "3 or 4 more years."
"I feel great, I really do," he said. "There's no reason for me not to think that I can go for a while. Now how long is a while? I don't know."
On the recruiting front, quarterback Kevin Newsome, of Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia, gave the Nits an oral commitment yesterday. He is considered the fourth-rated dual-threat quarterback in the country, according to Rivals.com.
Newsome is 6-3, 215 pounds and plans to enroll in January. With Pat Devlin transferring and Paul Cianciolo graduating, Daryll Clark would be the only scholarship quarterback on the roster next season.
Newsome reportedly chose the Nits over Boston College and Virginia Tech.
Sophomore defensive end Aaron Maybin has been picked first-team All-America by the Associated Press.
Maybin is one of four Nittany Lions honored by the AP. Center A.Q. Shipley was selected for the second team, while guard Rich Ohrnberger and receiver/kick returner Derrick Williams were picked for the third team.
Maybin, 6-4, 245 pounds, ranks fourth in the nation with 12 sacks and ranks sixth in the nation with 19 tackles for loss. He helped Penn State finish in the top 10 nationally in four primary defensive categories - rushing, pass efficiency, scoring and total defense.
Penn State has had at least one All-America in 38 of Joe Paterno's 43 years as head coach.
Shipley has started all 38 games at center the past 3 years. Ohrnberger has started 34 consecutive games at guard, as the Nits rank 11th nationally in scoring offense (40.2 points per game), 15th in rushing (211.6 yards per game) and total offense (452.2 yards per game).