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Ferentz mum on Paterno, Penn State situation

BY JORDAN GARRETSON | NOVEMBER 09, 2011 7:20 AM

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Kirk Ferentz was terse on Tuesday when asked about Joe Paterno and the recent events at Penn State. The Iowa coach instead chose to steer the conversation back toward his team's game Saturday against Michigan State.

"I've really been more focused on what we're doing here, getting through the weekend and then turning our sights to Michigan State," Ferentz said. "So that's really kind of where my thoughts have been.

"The only thing I can really say is, 'What can anyone say right now?' "

The New York Times reported Paterno's 46-year tenure as the Nittany Lions' head coach is expected to end soon — "perhaps within days or weeks" — in light of the scandal involving a former assistant coach who allegedly sexually abused at least eight boys.

A reporter asked Tuesday at the press conference what Ferentz would tell someone in 10 years if asked about Paterno.

"Come see me in 10 years, I guess," Ferentz said. "I'm just thinking about Michigan State. I don't know what anyone can say right this moment."

Ferentz has been linked to Paterno long before he became a fellow head Big Ten football coach in 1999. He was 10 years old when Paterno — a Penn State assistant coach for 16 years — became the Nittany Lions' head coach.

Paterno notched his 409th career victory when Penn State beat Illinois on Oct. 29, moving him past Eddie Robinson for the most wins in NCAA Division-I history.

"I was a young guy in awe of him," Ferentz said in September 2010. "I'm past 50 and still in awe of him. I had such great respect as a young person growing up in that part of the country."

The 13th-year Hawkeye head coach grew up in the Pittsburgh area and attended Upper St. Clair High.

"I don't think there are many coaches who have affected college sports more than Coach Paterno, in any sport," Ferentz said last month. "One guy on campus here, Dan Gable, pretty small class that he's in. Throw out names like Bear Bryant and John Wooden, there aren't many. It's a pretty small discussion."

Ferentz may have even walked on at Penn State and played for Paterno had his high-school coach not suggested otherwise.

"My high-school coach was insistent that I did not do it," Ferentz recalled. "He knew I wasn't good enough — as did Coach Paterno, he knew I was not good enough. It probably would have worked out. I would have learned a lot of things, but I would not have played there. I had two problems: small and slow."

The current Iowa head coach instead played linebacker at Connecticut, but his links to Paterno don't end there. He married Mary Hart, the sister of high-school teammate Kevin Hart. Ferentz's father-in-law, Gerry Hart, was a high-school teammate of Paterno's at Brooklyn Prep.

Paterno cited Ferentz's Pennsylvania connection in September as a possible motivator when he coaches against the Nittany Lions. Since taking over at Iowa, Ferentz is 8-3 against Penn State. The eight wins against Paterno are the most ever by a single coach.

"I think Kirk has done a great job," Paterno said. "… I think when he plays Penn State, there's a little bit something there, because he is a Pennsylvania kid."


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