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Testy Paterno backs Casey

Veteran coach spars with media over QB

Thursday, July 27, 2000

By Ray Fittipaldo, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

CHICAGO -- Facing reporters for the first time since Rashard Casey was arrested in May, Penn State Coach Joe Paterno appeared agitated, cut off reporters in the middle of questions and became flippant when his 15 minutes at the podium on the first day of Big Ten Conference Kickoff were filled with questions about the legal status of his starting quarterback.

Casey, a fifth-year senior, was arrested May 14 and accused of assaulting an off-duty police officer outside a nightclub in Hoboken, N.J. A court date has not been set, but the prosecutor in the case said it likely would not be heard until October or November at the earliest.

It didn't take long for Paterno to lose his cool. A reporter opened the line of questioning with this: "With the likelihood that Rashard Casey is going to get indicted, is there a difference ..."

Paterno cut off the reporter.

"You know I don't have the slightest idea of what is going to happen. Ask me something I'm capable of answering."

The reporter began his question again, but apparently with a longer introduction than Paterno wanted. Paterno interrupted again.

"Ask me a question. Don't give me a preamble. Ask me a question. Don't give me opinions. Give me a question."

The reporter started again, "Is there a difference between an indictment ..."

Paterno interrupted again.

"I'm not a lawyer. I'm not a lawyer. Give me a question."

Reporter: "Are you going to play Rashard Casey?"

Paterno: "I'm going to play Rashard Casey until something convinces me I shouldn't."

After two questions which did not pertain to Casey, another reporter asked Paterno how he makes decisions when his players are in trouble with the law. Does he have any hard-and-fast rules when it comes to disciplining a player and not disciplining a player?

"I really don't have [any rules]," Paterno said. "I really don't. Everyone thinks I'm spending sleepless nights, worrying about what's going to happen. ... There's nothing I can do about any of that right now, and I'm not going to do anything right now. There's no reason to do anything right now. We're just going to let it go."

Paterno continued his dialogue and, for the first time, seemed to concede that there was a possibility that the Nittany Lions would have to play part of the season without Casey.

Paterno spoke of the uncertainty all coaches face. He reflected on how Illinois Coach Ron Turner spoke earlier in the day of losing his top wide receiver, Brandon Lloyd, to a broken leg for the season.

"These kinds of things happen in football," Paterno said. "That's a great challenge in coaching. You're not sure you're going to have the same team tomorrow as you have today ... so I don't worry about that part of it. Every situation is different. If I told you I had one hard and fast rule, I think I'd be a lousy human being."

After two more questions, the subject of Casey came up again.

A reporter asked, "How realistic is it to expect Casey to concentrate on his play when he has legal problems pending?"

Paterno addressed the question in a joking manner.

"I don't know. How do I know? It's never happened to me. I've never been in legal trouble, I don't know. You tell me. You've probably had some legal troubles."

At that point, the entire room erupted in laughter. Paterno finished his remark by saying to the reporter, "Plus, you're getting your hair long. You'd better get it cut."

Paterno has a dress code for his players and expects them to present themselves in a neat and clean manner.

Paterno will answer more questions again today, the final day of the two-day media gathering.



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