Tom Bradley Takes Over
Tom Bradley ’78 is known among reporters and Penn State fans as a reliably jovial presence. He laughed just once on Thursday during the press conference to introduce him as Penn State’s interim head football coach. It was a short, ironic laugh, referencing how little there was to laugh about.
On Thursday morning, Bradley took a seat at the podium in a packed and sober Beaver Stadium press room. He was preceded by acting athletic director Mark Sherburne, whose introduction was mindful of the week’s events. “Families who entrust us with their children and their Penn State experience demand us to be stewards, role models, leaders and solid decision makers,” Sherburne said. “Tom fits that mold and will take that responsibility to heart.”
It’s well known that Bradley, the Nittany Lions’ longtime defensive coordinator and one of the most respected assistant coaches in the nation, had long dreamed of the chance to be Penn State’s head coach; it seems unnecessary to mention that he never could have imagined getting the job like this. Understandably, there were a number of questions posed that, due to the ongoing legal situation, he simply couldn’t answer. The answers he could give were generally brief and direct, delivered in his sharp Western Pennsylvania brogue.
He said he was watching game film—his usual Wednesday night routine—when the call came from interim president Rodney Erickson. He rounded up captains, called a team meeting for late Wednesday evening, and met again with the team early Thursday morning.
He confirmed he had spoken with Joe Paterno, but wanted to keep the contents of the conversation private. There were a few questions about Joe, including one from a reporter who asked, “Where do you think Joe Paterno should be on Saturday?”
“Coach Paterno has meant more to me than anyone except my father,” Bradley said. “I do not want to get emotional and start talking about that.”
A few minutes later, another reporter asked for Bradley’s take on Paterno’s legacy. Bradley didn’t waver. “Maybe most of you know him as a great football coach. I’ve had the privilege and the honor to spend time with him, he’s had such a dynamic impact on so many, so many—and I’ll say it again—so many people and players’ lives. It’s with great respect that I speak of him. I’m proud to say that I worked for him.”
There was more, of course, and you can read the entire transcript here. What Bradley’s tone and answers made clear are that his focus on preparing his team, and representing the university where he’s spent his entire career, won’t likely waver. Saying he hadn’t slept Wednesday night, Bradley elaborated, “I’ll sleep when it’s time to sleep.” I wouldn’t be surprised if Bradley doesn’t fall asleep until Saturday night.
Ryan Jones, senior editor