Joe Paterno has been open about saying he hopes to coach Penn State football for "four or five more years." A new report from Jeff Rapp of Sports Rapp Up, a site devoted to covering Ohio State football, however, suggests 84-year old coach may be willing to step down sooner than later for former Florida coach Urban Meyer.
The source told SRU that school officials contacted Meyer Sept. 25 and expressed major interest in pursuing him as head coach should Paterno, in fact, decide to retire.
Meyer was in State College to conduct a preseason interview with Penn State linebacker Mike Mauti, now out for the year with a torn ACL, and reportedly met with school president Graham Spanier and athletic director Tim Curley while on campus. Those talks apparently were productive.
"Urban would love to have that job," the source said. "Keep in mind, though, that he doesn’t want to be known as the guy who forced out Joe Paterno. It would have to be done in the right way. I think they could appeal to Joe Pa’s best interests and allow him to be the king-maker."
Rapp quotes Mark Brennan of FightOnState.com as saying Paterno likes Meyer, and got along well with him at the Outback Bowl in January, Meyer's last game before stepping down as coach of the Gators. Whether he'd actually retire to open to door for Meyer, though, remains to be seen.
Paterno had an active offseason, walking up to six miles per day around State College and the Penn State campus. He was about as active as he's been in a while with recruiting, too, Skype video chatting with a number of key Lion recruits. An injury at the beginning of fall practice has forced him up to the press box at times this season, but by all accounts, the coach has maintained a fire for the job that even he acknowledges wasn't there last season when Penn State finished 7-6.
Given all that, the odds of Paterno returning for 2012 would appear to be better than they were for 2011. As Rapp points out, though, the knowledge that Meyer, a two-time national champion with Florida, would be the replacement might give Paterno faith that the program would be in good hands without him.