Plenty of respect between Paterno, Delany

May, 19, 2009
5/19/09
4:42
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

CHICAGO -- So much for Joe Paterno's expansion crusade.

The Penn State head coach on Tuesday backed off his previous position regarding the need for the Big Ten to add a 12th member and a league championship game. Paterno expressed surprise that his prior comments had created such a stir and reassured his fellow coaches at the Big Ten meetings Tuesday that he had no expansion agenda to push.

Though Paterno still thinks a shorter gap between the end of the regular season and the bowl season would help Big Ten teams from a competitive standpoint, he's leaving expansion  up to Delany. 

"You're wasting your time coming to me about it, honestly," Paterno said. "Delany's the guy. ... He knows more about it than anybody. He knows what the problems are with scheduling, he knows the problems with anything the Big Ten may want to do with expansion. I have confidence in him.

"If it's good for the conference and he can figure out a way to make it happen, he'll probably do it. If it's not good for the conference, that's a dead issue."

It was surprising to see Paterno ease up on expansion Tuesday, especially after he addressed it twice in recent weeks. But it's clear that the 82-year-old has plenty of respect for Delany, and the feeling is mutual. 

"I'm the newest guy in the league," Paterno said. "I've never been in a conference before. A guy like Delany that's been around the conference as long as he is, he's run this conference as long as he has, for me to come in here and tell him, 'Hey, Delany, this is what you've got to do,' I don't know." 

Delany on Tuesday told a great story about walking with Paterno from a hotel in Midtown Manhattan to Madison Square Garden to watch Penn State's basketball team play in the NIT semifinals in March. People stood in awe as the college coaching icon walked toward the arena.

"It was one of the most remarkable walks I've ever taken in my life," Delany said. "So recognizable, really beloved. Black, white, poor, rich, homeless, whatever, traffic stopping. And he wanted to walk. After the game, [Delany said] 'Let's get a cab to go back.' He wanted to walk back. 

"He's a really bright guy, he knows his history. He and I disagree on a playoff, but he hasn't forfeited his First Amendment right on this or any other issue."

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