This is not a Joe Must Go (or stay) column. That time has passed. It is inevitable now. Joe Paterno's days are limited. It's just a matter of how the great coach exits: quietly or kicking and screaming.
Even Joe is dropping little clues that the end might be near.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review recently quoted Purdue's Joe Tiller following a recent conversation with Paterno. Tiller is part of a growing trend of schools using a "succession" plan.
Offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher is set to replace Bobby Bowden at some future date. Offensive coordinator Joker Phillips will take over for Kentucky's Rich Brooks. In basketball, Pat Knight just replaced his dad at Texas Tech. Drake just won the Missouri Valley title with rookie coach Keno Davis who succeeded his father Tom.
After this season, Tiller, 65, will be replaced by former Purdue assistant Danny Hope.
"(Paterno) was asking me 'Why?' and 'Who?' and 'How?' Tiller told the paper. "He didn't really tip his hand. But he did ask me 'Who's this guy?' and why did I like him and why now?"
Has Paterno earned the same right as Tiller and others, to name his own successor? The question at Penn State might already be moot. A recent investigation by the Harrisburg Patriot-News indicated that some trustees wouldn't stand in the way of president Graham Spanier making the 2008 season Paterno's last.
The last time Spanier and athletic director Tim Curley tried to get Paterno to set a timetable (2004) they were waved off. Paterno promptly went out and took the team to the Orange Bowl in 2005.
Things have changed. JoePa was a sprightly 78 back in 2005. That is not said sarcastically. During the last recruiting season, Paterno made his first in-home visit in two years. He fought a brutal strain of the flu for two weeks.
Spanier can no longer be waved off. He is armed with a five-year contract extension. The increasing number of off-field problems is bothering some trustees. The three -- Spanier, Curley, Paterno -- met again recently with urgency in the air. Something must be decided, and fairly quickly.
a) Give Joe a new contract. If that's the case, it has to be at least three years so that he can recruit.
b) Give Joe a new, but shorter, contract and allow him to name his successor.