TAMPA, Fla. - Another day, another town, another round of questions about retirement, another opportunity for Joe Paterno to shoot them down, which he did Tuesday in an exchange with reporters that was more witty than grumpy.
The 84-year-old Penn State coach, appearing with Florida's Urban Meyer to promote Saturday's Outback Bowl, has had to deal with constant rumors about his supposedly ill health and the theory that he will retire after the bowl game.
Paterno didn't look ill Tuesday, providing a contrast to Meyer's suit-and-tie wardrobe by wearing a gray sweatshirt. Of course, another contrast is that the 46-year-old Meyer will step down after Saturday's game, while Paterno has said he'll be back in 2011 for his 46th season as head coach.
"I'm different than Urban," Paterno said. "I've got people calling up saying, 'When the hell are you getting out?' "
After the laughter from a roomful of reporters had died down, Paterno continued.
"I've got a whole different slant on it," he said. "People think I'm going to quit this year or next year. I haven't even thought about it. I, honest to goodness, have not thought of it. I don't see any reason to get out of it. I feel great."
Paterno, who enters the bowl game with 401 career wins, said he "got a kick out of" hearing that, before the Nittany Lions had left for Florida, he had been admitted to a Hershey hospital, presumably the Milton Hershey Medical Center.
"I was home chewing out somebody for being late to a meeting," he said. "It's ridiculous. I don't know when I'll get out. I honestly don't know. I haven't even thought about it yet."
Rumors have been circulating about Paterno's health since shortly after Penn State played its 2010 Blue-White Game last April. A bad reaction to antibiotics touched off a stomach virus that lingered into the summer.
But Paterno has given no indication that he intends to do anything other than remain in charge in 2011, the final year of his contract. He announced his intent to return during a Nov. 23 teleconference and hasn't wavered since.
"The situation around me is very stable," he said Tuesday. "The athletic director [Tim Curley] is a kid I recruited as a walk-on. The [assistant] coaches have been with me; I haven't had a lot of guys leave. Our president [Graham Spanier] has been with us now for 14 or 15 years. We have a lot of fun together. I don't see any reason for getting out of it yet."
Paterno's wife, Sue, has added her denial of the rumors, telling the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Fight On State website that she and her husband have never discussed his retirement.
"Who started the crazy rumors?" she said Monday before attending the annual Outback Bowl Ladies Luncheon. "He's fine. No one has to identify who starts it. We don't even know where it starts.
"It's just lies. I mean, he's [supposedly] in the hospital when he's sitting at the table for dinner. He wasn't even near the hospital."
Sue Paterno's daughter, Mary Kay Hort, denied a report that a private plane had been reserved for Joe Paterno's entire family to be present Saturday for his presumed retirement announcement.