Thursday, December 29, 2011

Halfway to failure? The Penn State coaching search languishes

Having failed miserably in expediency, and losing its grip on secrecy, the search committee now must try to secure an extraordinary coach while battling the negative momentum it created and the all-consuming legacy of Sandusky

Why would the Boise State coach (reportedly) decline the Penn State job?

Why would former PSU All-American Mike Munchak pass on the opportunity?

Why isn't Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald a candidate? What happened to Miami's Al Golden?

Yep, things are looking down for the Penn State football search committee. When Boise Freakin' State (Boise State!) is considered more desirable - reportedly BSU coach Chris Petersen did not reciprocate Penn State's interest - you have to begin wondering what is going on.

In the long view, in the big picture, isn't this still a very good and potentially great job? Does anyone really think that 4-5 years from now and beyond, once this epic scandal is in the rearview mirror, this won't be a fantastic, Top 10 college football job once again? That the current 12-year-olds who in 2016 will be 17-year-old recruits won't know Sandusky from Kentucky?

Apparently, some aren't so sure.

Despite two recently published rankings of college football programs' financial output that both rated Penn State No. 3 nationally.

And despite a recent report rating PSU No. 1 in graduation performance among Top 25 college football programs.

And despite PSU's tremendous history of success, and institutional support, and recruiting base, and stability in the Big Ten.

All because of Sandusky.

Previously the only drawbacks to the job were having to follow a legend and the remote location of the school. Now, those are barely mentioned.

The search committee has been at this for more than four weeks, a very long time for such things. Committee chair Dave Joyner, the acting AD, said a new coach will be named after Monday's TicketCity Bowl.

(Why wait until then, from PSU's perspective? No idea. It's not as if this bowl game is particularly important to the future of the program. And not naming a coach prior to the game is every bit as distracting as naming one.)

With the leaks this week about PSU's reported interest in Petersen and Munchak, and Munchak's very public denial of interest, the search committee now is fighting an uphill battle.

The perception now is they are taking too long.

The perception now is the job is so tainted that they can't find a viable candidate to accept the position.

The search committee has one week to reverse those perceptions (those realities?) and land the right coach for the job.

Unless, of course, the committee already has found someone who has said yes, but agreed to wait until after the TicketCity Bowl to make the announcement. (For whatever reason - Munchak, for instance, has at least one more game to coach this season for the Tennessee Titans, and he might not want to be remembered like Slick Bobby Petrino, who callously bolted on the Atlanta Falcons a few years ago.)

Maybe Petersen was a smokescreen. Maybe Fitzgerald wants to coach Northwestern in its bowl game first before taking command in Happy Valley. Maybe Munchak is the guy, but after 30 years with the Oilers/Titans franchise he refuses to leave the team before the season is over.

Who knows for sure. At this point many things seem plausible and almost nothing seems impossible.

We'll find out next week. ... Or the week after ...

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