Who takes the reins at Penn State?

Urban Meyer, , the former Florida coach, might be the right type of outsider who could succeed Joe Paterno at Penn State.
Urban Meyer, , the former Florida coach, might be the right type of outsider who could succeed Joe Paterno at Penn State. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Posted: November 10, 2011

AT SOME POINT, and at this point who really can say exactly when, Penn State will hold a news conference to introduce its next football coach.

It's something the university hasn't had to do since 1966. And we're assuming back then, it was under better circumstances.

It's a pretty good bet the new guy won't be Jim Tressel or Rich Rodriguez. But it has to be somebody. And it must be somebody willing to take over for an icon, albeit now a tainted one, and deal with all the repercussions of this unprecedented child sex-abuse scandal. Because this story line isn't going away anytime soon.

The football program will go on. So whom does Penn State turn to beyond the interim, during which defensive coordinator Tom Bradley will coach the team.

It's a tricky question, because we don't know just yet who will make the decision. University president Graham Spanier won't be around, either, because of how he handled the unfolding scandal, and athletic director Tim Curley is on indefinite leave for the same reason.

When it looked a few years ago as if Joe Paterno might be gone, the names of some possible successors made the rumor rounds: Iowa's Kirk Ferentz, Rutgers' Greg Schiano, perhaps even former Nittany Lions player and coach Al Golden, then at Temple and currently in his first season at Miami, where he had to deal with some delicate issues involving illegal support from a booster before he arrived last December.

Obviously, the landscape has changed, and I'm not sure how Penn State might feel about handing the keys to anyone who's ever had anything to do with the program. We'll see. All things considered, you could do a lot worse than Golden.

I don't think whoever will make the call will stand at a lectern and welcome the former coordinator from wherever, no matter how promising the resumé. I think the university has to hit a grand slam. That means a big name, for much bigger bucks than it had to pay Paterno. And that big name must want Penn State. I don't see anyone currently at a big-time place making that move. Especially since this is recruiting season, and uncertainty is never a good thing.

(Penn State has always made its clean image a part of its recruiting pitch. To this point, most of the Nittany Lions' early commitments plan to stick with the program.)

That said, three former coaches might fill the bill, if there's a mutual interest.

One is Urban Meyer, who coincidentally is handling the color analysis for ESPN for Saturday's home finale against Nebraska. His players had some issues at Florida - from alcohol violations to a weapons violation - but some guys at State College have had issues, too. Of course, Meyer might want to be the next Ohio State coach instead.

Last week, he told the Associated Press: "I'm not worrying about down the road. I do miss it. I miss a lot of things about it. But I'm also really enjoying another part, that I get to watch my kids play sports."

Then there's Jon Gruden, who has said he also likes what he's doing at ESPN, where he is an analyst for "Monday Night Football." But most fellows in his position say that. His name came up before with Notre Dame, where he had a natural connection. His father was an assistant under Dan Devine.

Last but not least could be Bill Cowher, who said he likes what he's doing at CBS, working in the studio on NFL Sundays. Hey, he spent a good chunk of his life in Pittsburgh. But he'll have NFL offers to weigh.

Did somebody mention Tony Dungy?

Any of these men would bring instant credibility and some degree of stability to a place that sorely needs something positive to happen.

But didn't Notre Dame hire a high school coach once?

|
|
|
|
|