The words of AD Tim Curley in response to Joe Paterno’s declaration that he’ll return to the sidelines to coach in 2011 might suggest that the administration doesn’t quite feel the same way.
“We’re glad to hear of Coach Paterno’s excitement for next season. We share his optimism about the team’s potential, and look forward to our annual postseason discussion with Coach Paterno about next year.”
Sort of sounds like what you would tell someone who called you about a recommendation for someone you recently canned, doesn’t it? Don’t say anything for which you can later be held accountable. Waffle, waffle, waffle — IHOP should produce as many! Joe’s superiors are not looking forward to his return, just to the post-season discussion. Not much to look forward to there. They already know the script. Joe tells them what he’ll be doing and they congratulate him.
There might be nothing to it at all. Curley, after all, represents the administration on this issue, one that at least officially has not been decided yet. President Spanier and the Board of Trustees haven’t had time to weigh in on the subject, either, since Paterno opened his mouth. Lacking an official position by the university, Curley couldn’t publicly confirm or deny Paterno’s return. He squirmed like a man put on the spot.
Paterno had no reason not to say what he said. His contract extends through next year, so why wouldn’t he be looking forward to coaching the team? Viewed in this light, Curley’s equivocation could be meaningful, because the BOT, Spanier, and he all know about Joe’s contract.
Frankly, I think Curley is being coy just because he is a mealy-mouthed administrator in CYA Mode, and it is merely rumor mongering to read between the lines.
Our rampant speculation leading up to last year’s annual post-season discussion was defused when the three-year contract was announced. Paterno’s situation did not come up again until the summer, when he battled an intestinal virus that led to weight loss, cancelled speeches, and general observable debilitation, leading to speculation — at least by one reporter — that the venerable head coach might not even make it through the season. Once the 2010 season kicked off, much of that unfounded speculation was laid to rest. After the unexpected loss to Illinois, the drums grew louder once again. A couple of wins muted them a bit. Now, as usual after a worse than expected season, the “Joe Must Go” crowd, the reporters who must invent news to keep readers interested, and this Turkey are recontemplating our respective navels while formulating scenarios for Paterno’s demise as head coach and choosing his subsequent replacement. Given that there have been innumerable false alarms dating back to even before the dreaded “Dark Years”, it is certainly possible that those who see significance in Curley’s careful evasion will be disappointed once again.
I can’t take credit for unearthing Curley’s quote and perhaps overreacting to it. Phil Mushnick of the New York Post did that on Sunday. You can decide whether Curley is sending a signal by what he didn’t say. Read his take here.