UNIVERSITY PARK - Joe Paterno is Penn State football to a lot of people, and the legendary head coach intends to keep his job for a 46th season in 2011.
Paterno confirmed his plans publicly for the first time Tuesday, saying, "It's been a good situation, and I don't see any reason to leave it right now."
Paterno, who turns 84 next month, has been the Nittany Lions' head coach since 1966 and has more victories (401) than anyone in the history of major college football.
Penn State is having a tough season, taking a 7-4 record into Saturday's regular-season finale, but Paterno sees a lot of hope for next year and still isn't ready to walk away.
"I am looking forward to it," he said of next season. "I think we've struggled a little bit this year, with the youth and with the injuries and the whole bit. I think we're not where I would like us to be yet.
"But I think with a good spring and preseason practice, we could be a pretty good football team next year, and I'd like to be part of it."
Paterno, who has one year remaining on his contract, did admit returning will not be solely up to him.
"I don't think it's entirely my call," he said. "I'm not running the university. But I would hope that what I want to do would be taken into consideration and go from there."
Penn State Director of Athletics Tim Curley would not confirm the university has made a final decision on whether Paterno will be back in 2011.
"We are focused on the Michigan State game and helping our seniors and the team win their final home game," Curley wrote in an e-mail to the Mirror.
"We're glad to hear of coach Paterno's excitement for next season. We share his optimism about the team's potential and look forward to our annual postseason discussion with coach Paterno about next year."
Paterno has hinted several times throughout the season he wanted to be back next year but never committed to that stance until Tuesday.
"I never indicated to anybody, including myself, that I was not coming back," he said. "It's always been in my mind that now is not the time to go. ... I have not thought about getting out of it.
"Hopefully the good Lord keeps me healthy, and I'll be back."
Health was his biggest concern this year as Paterno battled a summer intestinal issue.
"It wasn't as serious as people tried to make it out to be," he said.
News of Paterno's plans to return came as no surprise to his players.
"No one on the team would be surprised by that," offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski said. "The guy just keeps going, and he
hasn't lost any passion for this at all."
Linebacker Chris Colasanti said the coach is still energetic in practice and noted he's been even more vocal this season than in years past.
"I want him back," quarterback Matt McGloin said. "It wouldn't surprise me one bit if he was here for a couple more years."
Mirror Staff Writer Cory Giger is at 949-7031.