On the Search for Penn State’s Next Football Coach
The only thing we know is that we don’t know anything.
That’s been the smart observer’s mantra regarding Penn State’s search for a new head football coach, a title Tom Bradley ’78, ’86g has held on an interim basis for more than a month. Bradley coached the Nittany Lions in their final three regular season games, and is expected to coach the team at least through its appearance in the TicketCity Bowl on Jan. 2. Beyond that? Virtually no one seems to know anything. Since late November, when the University announced the formation of a search committee to find Joe Paterno’s replacement, the rumors have been torrential—and the actual news non-existent.
Acting athletic director David Joyner ’72, ’76g heads the search committee, and he’s said little publicly about the search. The rare exceptions have been shooting down rumors of interviews or pending hires when asked about them by reporters, or the couple of video Q&As he’s done on GoPSUSports.com. The second of those was posted Thursday, and you can see it below.
The emotions of those following the search range from curious to increasingly panic stricken—one recent post on a Penn State football message board was dedicated to counting the days fans have been “held hostage” waiting for a new coach. In the video, Joyner is asked, essentially, what’s taking so long. His response? “We’re about exactly where I wanted to be at this point in time. We may be conducting our search a little different than other people; not saying they’re not, but we’re being very methodical and precise about what we’re doing and who we’re talking to.”
Joyner also says “We don’t have a lack of people to look at,” and indeed, the list of coaches who, without any confirmation, have been connected to the Penn State job is lengthy. Blue White Illustrated maintains a “hot board” (subscription required) of potential candidates, and essentially every Penn State and national college football writer has dedicated column inches to the speculation. Thursday brought what might’ve been the steadiest stream of rumors that the job had in fact been filled; the fact that the Wikipedia entry for Boise State coach Chris Petersen was briefly tweaked to claim he’d been hired by Penn State only added to the lunacy.
What seems clear is that Joyner and the rest of the committee are focused less on soothing the curiosity (or panic) of fans than they are making the right hire. When, and how, that happens remains anyone’s guess, but we’ll end with one fact we find instructive: The more informed media speculation has focused on Joyner and fellow committee member Ira Lubert ’73 as the key figures in this search. That matters (or seems to) because Joyner and Lubert—former Nittany Lion wrestling teammates—are widely credited with convincing Cael Sanderson to leave his alma mater and take over the Penn State wrestling program. Sanderson, of course, is the biggest name in collegiate wrestling, and he led the Lions to a national title last spring.
Is there a comparable hire for the Penn State football job? Probably not. But there is a right one, and in Joyner and Lubert, there’s a precedent for finding it.
Ryan Jones, senior editor