TAMPA — If Joe Paterno is to retire immediately after the Outback Bowl, someone first had better tell the 84-year-old icon.
Amid swirling online reports and rumors that Saturday's game will be his last, Paterno reiterated Tuesday he intends to remain on the Nittany Lions sideline at least through 2011, the final year of his contract.
"People think I'm gonna quit this year or next year. I haven't even thought of it. I honest-to-goodness haven't thought of it," Paterno said at an Outback Bowl media session Tuesday before heading off to Jesuit High for practice.
"The athletic director (Tim Curley) is a kid that I coached as a walk-on, the coaches are good; there haven't been a lot of guys leave. Our president (Graham Spanier) has been with us now maybe 14, 15 years. We have a lot of fun together and I don't see any reason to get out of it yet."
Despite speaking in slow, soft sentences and occasionally drifting off topic, Paterno's memory and humor seemed crisp Tuesday. He recalled details of his recruitment of 70-year-old Nittany Lions offensive coordinator (and ex-Gators coach) Galen Hall out of high school, and joked of recently being informed he had been admitted to a hospital in Hershey, Pa.
"Hershey hospital? I was home chewing out somebody being late for a meeting," Paterno said. "It's ridiculous. … I don't know when I'm gonna get out. I honestly don't know."
MEYER AND TV?: When his coaching days are over at Florida, it's likely you will not have seen the last of Urban Meyer on TV. Instead of on the sideline, he'll probably be in a suit and sitting in a studio. Meyer said Tuesday he'll likely work as an analyst for ESPN.
"I think so," Meyer said when asked if ESPN might be an option. Meyer, who gave an in-studio interview for the network last week and offered analysis as well, seemed impressed by the ESPN operation.
"What I found out, what a place, what great people," he said. "(But) I have no idea. I'm not concerned about that until after (the Outback Bowl). But I'll have to do something and if Coach Paterno doesn't hire me I'm going to have to (find something else)." Meyer had a running joke during the coaches news conference that he'd like Paterno to hire him as a graduate assistant.
TRANSITION: He still has four days remaining as coach, but Meyer said he's leaving the program in good hands with incoming coach Will Muschamp.
Meyer said the transition and uncertainty have been tough on his staff, but they are handling the situation well. His players are also doing well, he said.
"The guy we hired is fantastic so I think that eased a lot of the burden,'' Meyer said. "The first priority is the players and then the coaches. Steve Addazio getting the Temple job certainly eased a lot. I think he's one of the finest coaches in America. I don't think, I know he is, so it's great to see that there is going to be some stability in our coaches' lives. And our players are fine now.''
Meyer said he still feels like this is his team until Saturday night, and he's enjoying his final days.
"I've really enjoyed these last two weeks,'' he said. "I enjoyed practice (Monday) and I enjoy being around the players. If there's ever a good time, obviously I don't know if there ever is, this kind of worked out pretty well.''
Odds and ends: Paterno said third-string QB Kevin Newsome isn't with the team this week, but didn't say if the sophomore is pondering a transfer.
Quote of the day: "I think Urban has been one of the innovators with some of the things they've done on the field. … My son Jay (Penn State's quarterbacks coach) worships the guy. I keep telling him, 'Your old man's a head coach too, you know.' " — Paterno.