CHICAGO - It would make sense if Joe Paterno harbored some resentment toward Graham Spanier, what with the famous 2004 meeting at the coach's house in which the university president presented the idea of retiring.
The truth, however, is that JoePa now respects Spanier for what took place that day, which came at the tail end of the football program's "dark years."
"I admire the fact that he walked away from that ... with the idea that, hey, we had a meeting and we talked about some things and he had a feel for where I was coming from," Paterno said Tuesday at Big Ten media days.
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Spanier could have played hardball and forced out the legendary coach. He didn't, the Nittany Lions have had a resurgence, and Paterno got the last laugh.
Thinking back on that meeting in 2004, Paterno said he thought it was "to his credit" the way Spanier handled things.
The two most powerful people at Penn State may not always see eye to eye, and even though Paterno rarely calls him by name, he does have respect for Spanier's leadership at the school.
More JoePa online
Joe Paterno spoke with reporters about a number of topics for two hours Tuesday. Check the "Giger Counters" blog at altoonamirror.com for Cory Giger's recap of all the coach's comments.
"I think he's done a good job," said Paterno, who added, "He deserves it" when discussion of Spanier's recent contract extension came up.
Paterno faced the inevitable "how much longer will you go" questions repeatedly the past two days. He may stay another few years, he said, but he also talked openly about how he would like the process to go when he decides to retire.
"I don't intend to name my successor," he said before later adding, "What I'd like to see happen is, when it's determined it's time to go, one way or the other whether I make that decision or somebody else makes it, that they would bounce some names off me.
"What am I thinking about this guy or thinking about that guy. And give me a chance to just react without getting annoyed that they take somebody [when] I don't think it's the right way. ... I hope they bounce some names off me and ask me to make some comments."
Paterno mentioned that, when he signed his current three-year contract in 2008, he, Spanier and athletic director Tim Curley made an agreement.
"We talked about how long I would go," Paterno said. "At that time, we said, OK, we signed a three-year contract and said after a year or two let's sit down and talk."
He's about to enter the second year of that contract and pointed out the follow-up conversation has not yet occurred.
Beyond that, looking ahead to the naming of the next coach, there's no way of knowing just how much input Paterno will have in the process.
He spoke of Spanier using the ambiguous comment, "The president's not a guy you turn around. He's a tough guy." Asked to describe what he meant by tough, Paterno added, "He does his homework" and credited Spanier for not being afraid to make decisions.
"I think he's a guy that works at his job all the time, and when he comes to a decision, he comes to it," Paterno said.
Presented with the possibility of Spanier going out on his own to name a coach, Paterno refuted the notion.
"I think he'll listen to me," Paterno said.
Spanier listened to Paterno in 2004, and that worked out well. He would be wise to follow that same philosophy again and be sure to give JoePa his fair say when it comes time to name the next coach.
Cory Giger can be reached at 949-7031 and firstname.lastname@example.org.