Commodores drop home opener, will start 2006 at Michigan Peers make Paterno coach of year for record 5th time

Penn State coach Joe Paterno puts his arms around Texas coach Mack Brown, left, and Alabama coach Mike Shula on Tuesday.

The Associated Press
Published: Wednesday, January 11, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 11, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Vanderbilt canceled its Sept. 2 home opener on Tuesday for a deal to start the 2006 season at Michigan in a game to be televised on ESPN.
It will be the lone regular-season game between teams from the Southeastern Conference and Big Ten, and it will be Vanderbilt's first season opener on ESPN since playing Alabama in 1997.
Vanderbilt dropped its scheduled home opener against Middle Tennessee, which has won three straight against the Commodores in Nashville. School officials said they hope to reschedule the game in an upcoming season.
The Commodores will start the season with two road games. But they couldn't pass up the chance for national television exposure, especially in a deal that includes ESPN appearances in 2007 for the football and women's basketball teams.
But it won't be an easy task for coach Bobby Johnson, who will be breaking in a new quarterback following the departure of SEC player of the year Jay Cutler. The Commodores went 5-6 in 2005, while Michigan was 7-5.
Michigan and Vanderbilt first played in 1905. The Wolverines lead the series 9-0-1, including a 42-14 victory in the most recent meeting in 1969.
n GEORGIA: UGA has scheduled Louisville (2011 and 2012), Western Carolina (2009), Georgia Southern (2008) and Appalachian State (2007) as future non-conference opponents, athletic director Damon Evans announced Tuesday.
  • PENN STATE: All-American linebacker Paul Posluszny will bypass the NFL draft and return to Penn State for his senior year.
    Posluszny, winner of the Butkus Award as the country's top linebacker, partially tore two ligaments in his right knee late in the fourth quarter of the Nittany Lions' 26-23 triple overtime win over Florida State in the Orange Bowl last week.
  • MISSOURI: Former star Zachary Abron was charged Tuesday with felony possession of marijuana.
    The 25-year-old Abron, once the school's career rushing leader and now playing in Europe, was being held on $25,000 bond.
    DALLAS - Penn State's Joe Paterno was named coach of the year by the American Football Coaches Association on Tuesday, marking the record fifth time his peers have chosen him for their highest annual honor.
    Although Paterno has received other top coaching prizes lately, he was surprised by this one because the voting closed Monday, after Mack Brown led Texas to the national championship with a victory over Southern California in the Rose Bowl.
    "I think Mack Brown deserves to be up here to be honest with you," Paterno said upon receiving the plaque. "But you know, at 79, I figure this is my last shot. Mack's still a young guy."
    After four losing seasons in the last five years, each followed by calls for his retirement, Paterno guided the Nittany Lions to an 11-1 record, including a 26-23 triple-overtime victory over Florida State in the Orange Bowl. Penn State shared the Big Ten title and finished the season ranked No. 3, its best final ranking since being second in 1994.
    Paterno also was honored by the AFCA in 1968, '72, '82 and '86, making this the fourth different decade he's taken home the award, which is the oldest of its kind and the only one voted on strictly by coaches. The 19-year gap is another AFCA record.
    "To win for the fifth time, you think it's old hat, but it ain't old hat," Paterno said. "I'm probably a little bit more emotional about this one than any of them because a bunch of people came together and said, 'Hey, we're sick and tired of getting the heck kicked out of us. We need to rally around and get back to where we belong.' And we ended up a pretty good football team."
    Along with Brown, Paterno beat other regional winners Pete Carroll of Southern Cal, Mike Shula of Alabama and Larry Coker of Miami. AFCA executive director Grant Teaff called it one of the toughest ballots in recent years.
    Part of the reason Paterno was partial to Brown - even saying, "I wish we could make this a co- thing" - was payback for a favor. He sent coaches from his staff to Austin last year to learn how the Longhorns used Vince Young in hopes of getting the most out of their run-pass quarterback, Michael Robinson.
    "We came away and we were better," Paterno said. "So, Mack - thanks."
    Brown was among those who voted for Paterno.
    "Usually the coach of the year is the guy that overcame something," Brown said. "We didn't overcome anything. We just won a big game at the end and we hadn't been doing that. For Joe to do what he's done over the last few years and turn his program completely around is really, really special. I don't think there's any question he's deserving of this award."
    The AFCA also honored Appalachian State's Jerry Moore (Division I-AA), Grand Valley State's Chuck Martin (NCAA Division II and NAIA) and Wisconsin-Whitewater's Bob Berezowitz (Division III).
    Full-time assistants for all four winning coaches will received a $1,000 grant toward their education or professional development. Moore, Martin and Berezowitz are now invited to be assistant coaches at the Hula Bowl, with Paterno invited to be a head coach in the 2007 game in Honolulu.
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