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Paterno still eager despite 3-9 season

Joe Paterno is spending December in an unusual way -- recruiting
and preparing for holiday visits from his grandchildren instead of
gearing up for a bowl game.

Coming off his worst season ever as a coach at Penn State,
Paterno has no plans to retire. He still has some lofty goals he
wants to achieve.

"I've coached undefeated football teams in the '60s, '70s, '80s
and '90s. That's four decades that I've had undefeated teams,"
Paterno said Friday, two days before he turns 77. "We had a shot
at the national championship in every single one of those decades.

"I want to do it for five decades. Every year that's what I
want to do. I really thought we had a legitimate shot at it last
year and I'm working my butt off to give us a chance to get it done
before I get out of it. I understand what it takes to get it done
and I know how to get it done."

Penn State finished a miserable season with a 3-9 record, 1-7 in
the Big Ten. It was the third time in the last four years the
Nittany Lions had a losing record, and just the fourth losing
season since Paterno joined the coaching staff in 1950.

The Nittany Lions set one ignominious record after another this
season. Nine losses were the most ever for a Penn State team,
breaking the record set during a 2-8 season in 1931. And Penn
State's three wins came against teams -- Temple, Kent State and
Indiana -- that went 8-28.

Penn State didn't win a road game for the first time since the
1936 season, and finished below .500 in the Big Ten for the first
time since joining the conference for the 1993 season. The Nittany
Lions finished tied for ninth in a league they expected to dominate
when they joined a decade ago.

"I don't know about physically, but it took a lot out of me
mentally," Paterno said. "Nobody likes to lose and this team lost
more than any other I've been around. But I feel great now. I have
a little bit of a flu, but other than that, I feel great.

"We expect to have a lot of good players returning and
recruiting has gone well. Now can I do it for another 10 years? I
don't know. When you're 90, it's kind of tough to be a football
coach."

Paterno came to Penn State 53 years ago as an assistant to Rip
Engle, then took over as head coach in 1966. His career record is
339-109-3. Earlier this year, Florida State coach Bobby Bowden
passed Paterno as the coach with the most major-college wins, a
record Paterno took two years ago from the late Paul "Bear"
Bryant.

Penn State's season was marred by an unprecedented number of
player arrests that provided a constant distraction throughout the
year.

The first, and worst, of a series of off-field troubles came
last spring when Anwar Phillips was arrested and charged with
sexually assaulting a female student on campus. A jury over the
summer found him innocent, but when the details were made public in
the spring Paterno was vilified for allowing Phillips to play in
the Capital One Bowl, two weeks after Phillips had been expelled
from the university.

During the summer and fall, seven more current and former
players were arrested or cited, including redshirt freshman Maurice
Humphrey, the team's No. 2 receiver. On the day after the season
ended, Humphrey was charged with aggravated assault, simple
assault, harassment and criminal mischief for an alleged on-campus
assault. He was temporarily expelled from the university earlier
this month.

"Maurice has some problems," Paterno said, adding he didn't
expect Humphrey to play next season. "He's a good kid. I don't
approve of what he did."

In his 38 seasons as coach, Paterno has led Penn State to two
national championships (1982, 1986), four title games, seven
undefeated, untied regular seasons and 31 bowl games (20-10-1).