Joe Paterno, Penn State's football coach, told delegates to the NCAA convention today that he has been violating an NCAA rule consistently for the last four years.

"It is the only rule I have violated knowingly in 31 years of coaching," Paterno said. "But I did it because it is the only way for my school to remain competitive."

Paterno's reference was to the NCAA rule that says a college may make no more than three contacts with a high school athlete while he is being recruited. Paterno argued today for an amendment to the rule that would allow unlimited contacts with high school students as long as the meetings take place at the student's high school and are not prearranged.

That amendment was defeated but a compromise measure increasing the number of contacts allowed from three to six was passed. Paterno said he would abide by the new rule and hoped his colleagues would follow suit.

Earlier, arguing against the old rule, Paterno said: "We are going to cheat on this rule because it is a bad rule and it is unenforceable.

"When this rule was first passed five years ago I told my staff to strictly adhere to it. We had three meetings and no more."

But, Paterno said, when he learned that other coaches were commonly "bumping" prospects -- meeting them "accidentally" -- at their high schools, he told his coaches to do the same to remain competitive.

"Four years later we paid the price for that first year," the oft-honored coach said. "The group we recruited that year was the group we had so much trouble with last year. (A number of players flunked out or were kicked off the team for disciplinary reasons.)

"The reason we had those problems was because we didn't know the kids the way we had in the past and the way we have known them since that year when we had more contact with them."