Penn State was passed over yesterday for a BCS bowl invitation, but that didn't bother Joe Paterno in the least. After all, the Nittany Lions' iconic head coach has 17 grandchildren.
In his discussions with them (the oldest is 14), they made it clear that Orlando was the desired destination. And the Lions got that when they were invited to the Capital One Bowl at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium on Jan. 1 against Louisiana State.
"They kept bugging me," Paterno, who celebrates his 83d birthday on Dec. 20, said last night on a conference call with reporters. "They wanted to go to the Peabody Hotel and see the ducks. They wanted to go to Disney World and Sea World.
"This is going to be a great game. Our guys are excited. I'm excited. We are playing a good opponent in LSU. It's going to be a fun game for us."
The Nittany Lions (10-2) were hopeful of getting a BCS bid over Iowa, but the result of their head-to-head matchup on Sept. 26 - a 21-10 loss to the Hawkeyes at Beaver Stadium - proved too much to overcome. Iowa finished 10th in the final BCS standings, three rungs above Penn State.
A BCS bowl pays $17 million to each team. The Capital One Bowl will pay an estimated $4.25 million. But in the Big Ten, after a set amount for team expenses is taken out, the 11 member schools divide bowl revenue for all teams equally.
"The only thing important to me, as far as our football team was concerned, was that we go somewhere where we could have a good time, a place our fans could go to, and have a really good opponent," Paterno said. "All those things worked out for us. You could put a BCS in front of it or a BCS behind it. It didn't bother me at all."
This will be Penn State's 42d bowl game, its 36th with Paterno as head coach. Paterno, who has 393 career victories, is 23-11-1 in bowl games, with a 16-7 mark in New Year's Day games.
The game against LSU will mark only the second meeting between the two traditional football powers. Their other contest was the 1974 Orange Bowl, the final collegiate game for Heisman Trophy winner John Cappelletti, where the Lions took a 16-7 victory to finish 12-0.
When he was a Penn State assistant, Paterno said he used to hang out at coaches' conventions with LSU assistant Paul Dietzel, who, like Paterno, eventually was promoted to head coach. They talked about scheduling each other, but it never worked out.
Paterno said he watches today's Tigers whenever he can.
"I look at some of the things they do on defense and some of the things they do on offense," he said. "I know a little bit more about them than I would somebody else. I watch them because they've been successful. We're all copycats, and I'll find something I like from them and put it in."
The Tigers, who finished 12th in the BCS, went 9-3 this season, but two of their losses were to then-No. 1 Florida (13-3) and then-No. 2 Alabama (24-15). Their other defeat came at the hands of Mississippi.
LSU coach Les Miles was an assistant at Michigan when Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1993. The Wolverines visited Beaver Stadium that season, and Miles called it "a very fond memory."
"We recognize Coach Paterno is one of the great coaches of all time," Miles said in a conference call. "He will have his Penn State team trained and prepared as well as any. Having seen them in the Big Ten, we recognize it will be a very physical contest. It will be a challenge for us."