Sunday, December 18, 2011

Is Penn State Really Considering Hiring JoePa's Replacement From Within?

Three people are known to have interviewed for the position, and all are on the current staff

Good thing all is quiet about Penn State, so we can just sit back and enjoy the holidays and ...

Kidding, of course. Tumult is the new norm at PSU.

Between the Sandusky trial and Curley/Schultz trial (or, as the media thinks of the Curley/Schultz trial, MORE REASONS TO WRITE ABOUT PATERNO-PATERNO-PATERNO ... ) and the various investigations, PSU will be in the media cycle for months and maybe years, most of it ugly. Sigh.

What new football coach will inherit this?

Since the scandal mushroomed like nuclear fallout and Joe Paterno was fired, RFBS and others firmly believed PSU would hire from outside. Someone with little or no connection to the PSU coaching staff - and thus no connection to the scandal - would be the next head coach. It just had to be that way. For a clean fresh start, and to ensure no embarrassing revelations later.

Now? Well, we've got reason to wonder if that is the mindset of the committee.

In three weeks of searching, the six-member committee - which has been exceptionally secretive, and kudos to them for that - is reported to have interviewed three candidates. All three are current PSU coaches - longtime defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, longtime defensive line coach Larry Johnson and Jay Paterno.

(Also, former PSU defensive coach Brian Norwood, who was in Happy Valley from 2001-07 and has been Baylor's defensive coordinator since then, reportedly has interviewed).

Hmmmm - what does this mean?

There are at least four legitimate possible reasons for this:

  1. The interviews are a courtesy to longtime staffers who desire to be head coaches, if not here then elsewhere.
  2. The committee needs the practice interviewing candidates. The committee does not consist of college athletic administration veterans familiar with interviewing coaching candidates, and they need to gain experience. 
  3. The committee is using these interviews to learn more about the culture of Penn State football from those who know it best. A culture that has been lauded for decades and for the most part needs to be continued. A culture that, by and large, brought success with honor - right up until Sandusky.
  4. It really is considering hiring from within, and it considered Bradley (obviously), Johnson and JayPa to be the best candidates on staff. 

Which is the truth?

From this vantage point, it's clearly No. 3, with maybe a little No. 2 and No. 1 sprinkled in, serendipitously.

Think about it. The head of the search committee, acting AD Dave Joyner, will be responsible for oversight, monitoring and mentoring for the next football coach.

But Joyner, who replaced deposed AD Tim Curley in mid-November, mostly has been an outsider re: PSU football for the past few decades. (He played football for PSU 40 years ago; he has been involved with the university in several other capacities since). As such, he needs a better, updated understanding of how things have been done, of the current culture about PSU football. The ins-and-outs, etc.

How to gain such understanding? There's no better way than by interviewing Bradley, Johnson and JayPa.

Maybe that's the skeptical viewpoint. Maybe what's actually happening is the committee is realizing what an incredibly good thing PSU football had going. Stability, leadership, continuity, respect, success - the Penn State coaching staff epitomized those characteristics, so who better to continue them?

The PSU coaches have continued to display those characteristics through this extended, lingering period of professional limbo. (The search committee has been at it for three weeks now - wrap it up, people!). Even though the entire coaching staff is presumed to be dead coaches walking, it has continued working diligently as PSU prepares for the Jan. 2 bowl game, with no complaints about its plight reported (though obviously the Curtis Drake-Matt McGloin fracas this weekend is very disturbing).

That all might be true. The committee might be extremely impressed by the PSU coaches it has interviewed. It might love the idea of continuity in a time of tumult, and very much want to name one of them the next Penn State football coach.

And it still will hire from outside the PSU football bubble. It has to, doesn't it?

1 comment:

  1. Can PSU really take the huge risk in hiring Bradley, Johnson or someone else on the present staff? What if one of them is hired and 6, 8, or 12 months from now it comes out in the Sandusky trial, the Curley trial, the Shultz trial, or by one of the many ongoing probing investigations, that one of them knew about Sandusky? Could PSU, at that critical time in its ongoing healing process from the Sandusky scandal, survive yet another huge negative hit on its reputation?