TAMPA -- The Outback Bowl held its annual Ladies Luncheon at Roy's Restaurant here Monday afternoon. And it was against that fitting backdrop that Sue Paterno, wife of Penn State coach Joe Paterno, took the opportunity to express a few strong opinions.
The event was billed as a photo opportunity. But after being asked if she'd be willing to answer a few questions on her husband, Sue Paterno hashed it out with her daughter and daughter-in-law, then decided she would do the interview.
Daughter Mary Kay Hort and daughter-in-law Kelley Paterno (the wife of PSU assistant coach Jay Paterno) sat in on the discussion, which included only two reporters.
Asked if the Nittany Lions' Outback Bowl appearance against Florida would be 84-year-old Joe Paterno's last games, Sue Paterno was emphatic.
We have NEVER talked about it, she said.
Added Hort: It is not his planned last game.
The trio is fed up with the rumors that have been circulating about Joe Paterno, including suggestions that his health is much worse than is being publically portrayed and that the Outback Bowl will be his last game.
Joe Paterno is on the record has saying he intends to return in 2011.
As for the rumors?
Who started the crazy rumors? Sue Paterno said. He's fine. No one has to identify who starts it. We don't even know where it starts.
It's just lies, she added. I mean, he's (supposedly) in the hospital when he's sitting at the table for dinner. He wasn't even near the hospital.
The Nittany Lions arrived in the Tampa area to begin preparing for the Outback Bowl two weekends ago. Shortly after they arrived, Sue Paterno received a call at the house.
I told people when they called last week, I said, 'He's fine, he's in Florida,' she recalled. They said, 'No he's not, he's in the hospital.' I said, 'No, he's in Florida
you don't know what you're talking about.' I knew they were calling me a liar. But I knew where he was.
Kelley Paterno believes there is a vicious cycle aspect to the situation.
The story becomes a story, but there's no story, she said. And that becomes a story, that there's no story.
Hort suggested, I don't think there is any real news here, unfortunately. You're wasting your time.
Asked if there have been recent discussions with the university's administration or athletic director Tim Curley about her husband's future, Sue Paterno simply said, No.
She added, We talk to Tim a lot. We talk to his wife a lot. We're all friends. That's one good thing about Penn State -- we're all family.
Hort said reports of a private jet bringing the entire Paterno family to Tampa for the Outback Bowl -- and the implication that it was being done because it will be Joe Paterno's final game - were false.
There are no private planes, she said, adding that her brother David and his family will not be attending the game at all.
As frustrated as the rumors can be, answering constant questions about them is no picnic, either.
We're the last ones to hear, Sue Paterno said. So we're surprised.
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