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PSU's Paterno still plays by the rules

January 31, 2002

PSU's Paterno still plays by the rules



By DAN SPEARS
dans@herald-mail.com


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Penn State football coach Joe Paterno posed. The camera was all ready. Then he halted the proceedings.

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"She's with the yearbook, right?" he asked several administrators at Martinsburg High School on Wednesday afternoon. After receiving that confirmation, a wide grin appeared on his face and the picture was eventually taken.

Paterno wanted to make sure no recruiting guidelines were broken, one of the biggest changes he's survived in his 51 seasons with the Nittany Lions.

"There are so many darn little rules that are bothersome," Paterno said. "But they're good."

Paterno came to the Eastern Panhandle for his one home visit to senior Steve Roach, the Bulldogs' All-State offensive lineman. Roach verbally committed to Penn State in the fall, but can't sign until next week.

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So until there's a name on the dotted line, Paterno will follow his guys.

"With signing day coming, it's important to get down here and to see Steve and his community," said Kenny Carter, Penn State's receivers coach and head of West Virginia recruiting. "It's important to the community. And to us."

The recruiting of college football players has nearly become as big as the actual games themselves. Websites abound on the subject and, at some high schools, pep rallies with fireworks announce where a team's star is going for the next three, four or five years of his life.

For Paterno, it's almost a little too much.

"It's 'sell,' and it shouldn't be 'sell,'" Paterno said. "It should be, 'This is what Penn State is all about, and this is what we expect from you."

What's expected from Paterno has also changed. Instead of just local recruiting in the Northeast's Big Four - Penn State, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia - he's criss-crossing the country for just a snippet of someone's time.

"Back then, you didn't have a calendar for recruiting," Paterno said. "You worked all year on kids to get to know them better."

"But there were some financial problems and things changed," Paterno continued. "It's better today, except it's so difficult to organize and get to see 20-25 kids."

Since Roach is not an official member of the Penn State program, Paterno cannot speak a single word about him - another of those rules in question.

So the rest of the day was spent in a Q&A session with the football team, signing autographs and engaging the media in a impromptu session of "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In."

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> When will you retire? "I'm gonna go five more years, I hope. I've been fortunate enough to be here and have undefeated teams in the '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s. I'll give myself five years to do it again in another decade."

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Are you sick of people asking about when you're going to retire? "Yes."

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> What will you do when you finally retire? "Look for a good mortician."

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> And why not all kids should be at Penn State? "We're a small country town. Some kids want to be in a city. I was like that. I wanted to leave here after three days. And that was 52 years ago."

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