Column: PSU Ties not the Defining Factor in Coaching Search

Story posted January 4, 2014 in CommRadio, Sports by Matt Michelone

The year was 1949 and Penn State football took to the field for its only season under former guard from the early 1920s, Joe Bedenk. The Nittany Lions finished the year 5-4, and soon replaced Bedenk with Rip Engle.

Since then, Penn State has had four different head coaches, Engle, Joe Paterno, interim coach Tom Bradley, and Bill O’Brien.

Bradley is the only coach since 1950 that has had any connection to Penn State before taking the top job. Some fans and alumni have argued that the Nittany Lions should bring in someone who has a connection to Penn State, and would want to stay for the foreseeable future.

Some of the names include Miami (FL) head coach Al Golden, Mike Munchak of the Tennessee Titans, or even bringing back Bradley.

Athletic director Dr. David Joyner will have to move as quickly as possible to save this recruiting class, but display patience, because he needs to ensure that the program does have the best long-term option.

Fans should not expect as long of a search compared to two years ago when the “Sandusky Scandal” was still fresh in the minds of many across the country, but should expect that the program to consider not just the immediate future, but the long-term health of the program.

Joyner would be wise to consider bringing in someone with ties to the program as they may feel committed to staying longer, and may not necessarily have NFL aspirations.

The question is: does it address what the team needs right now? Does the next head coach offer the tools necessary to continue the development of Christian Hackenberg and the evolving Penn State offense? Can the coach sell recruits on the future of Penn State?

These will likely not be the only considerations the next search committee will have, when determining how to replace a man who led the university through two of its darkest years.

Hiring someone possesses Penn State ties can offer the team years of stability. The next head coach may love Penn State enough, where he could feel as if he should stay at a school that was part of his life for years, and could even make that his final destination.

This would allow recruits the comfort of knowing there is a good chance that the coach that brings them to Penn State, will be there when they leave, and provide the team the continuity it had for years prior to the scandal.

Former Penn State player and assistant, Al Golden, or even Greg Schiano (assistant from 1990-95), may feel that loyalty to Penn State and may decide to end their careers with the Nittany Lions.

However, hiring a guy with Penn State ties may also be detrimental to the long-term health of the program.

Three of Penn State’s last four coaches, all had Brown connections and each of them had connections with recruiting bases that the program needed.

What also must be considered is whether or not that coach will be tempted to bring in assistants who also hold Penn State ties? If an assistant is performing up to standard, will he be willing to let that assistant go, despite loyalty to Penn State and the program?

The program could also be preventing itself from being able to tap into new recruiting streams in other football hotbeds such as Texas and Florida.

Penn State could, much like it was for O’Brien, end up being a stepping stone to ultimately becoming a head coach in the NFL. Anyone who Penn State hires, whether they have connections or not, needs to be a guy who they can count on being there for the foreseeable future, and whose aspirations to go the NFL are for later on.

Bringing in a guy with Penn State ties isn’t a bad thing, but it’s also not a definite fix for the long-term health of Penn State football.

Matt Michelone is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email