College Football: Speculation to replace Paterno begins
Penn State needs a coach. Urban Meyer is available.
Let the speculation begin.
The last game Meyer coached for Florida, his Gators beat Joe Paterno and Penn State in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1.
Meyer, then 46, needed a break from coaching. Paterno, having just turned 84, was seemingly going strong.
ěHe will go down as the greatest football coach in the history of the game. Every young coach, in my opinion, can take a lesson from him,î Meyer said after that game in Tampa, Fla.
ěIf I ever start a coaching school, Iím going to make everybody do a book report on Joe Paterno, and say thatís the way you should act in coaching because thatís college football. … You just donít want to lose that man or lose what college football is. That was college football out there today.î
Now itís possible Meyer could be the man to replace Paterno, the winningest coach in Division I history, whose 46-season run with the Nittany Lions is ending because of a child sex abuse scandal involving a former assistant coach.
And Meyerís name certainly wonít be the only one to surface as a possible candidate at Penn State.
This, however, is certain: Penn State is going to hire a football coach for the first time since 1966 and one of the most successful in the last decade is on the market.
Even before former Nittany Lions defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was charged with being a serial molester ó speeding up Paternoís departure ó there had been talk that Penn State officials had reached out to Meyer about eventually replacing their coaching legend.
Meyer, now 47, has given no indication that heís ready to return to coaching ó anywhere. The Ohio State job could also come open at the end of the season, and Meyer is an Ohio native. Some Buckeyes fans have already started counting the days until Meyer takes over in Columbus.
But Meyer has made no commitments. And before the Penn State scandal erupted, he was happy just being a college sports fan: Meyer has three children and his two daughters play college volleyball.
ěIím not worrying about down the road,î Meyer told The Associated Press in a phone interview last week. ěI do miss it. I miss a lot of things about it, but I also am really enjoying another part, thatís I get to watch my kids play sports.î
Some other top candidates have a Penn State connection.
Expect Miami coach Al Golden, a former Joe Pa player, to be mentioned almost as much as Meyerís.
The 42-year-old Golden was a tight end at Penn State from 1987-91 and was linebackers coach there in 2000, the season after Sandusky retired.
The New Jersey native went on to become coach at Temple in Philadelphia. In four years there, he revitalized a program that was one of the worst in college football.
Miami hired him away after last season and he unexpectedly walked into a massive NCAA investigation. Even with all the tumult, Goldenís Hurrcianes are 5-4.
ěWeíre excited about what weíre building here. I canít worry about what other people are saying,î Golden said Wednesday.
There was a time Rutgers coach Greg Schiano was thought to be a top candidate to replace Paterno.
Schiano never played at Penn State, but Paterno gave him his first big break in coaching, promoting him from graduate assistant to defensive backs coach under Sandusky in 1991. Schiano, a New Jersey native, was at Penn State until 1995 and took over at Rutgers in 2001. Like Golden, Schiano turned a laughingstock program into a winner.
The type of potentially program crippling sanctions ó loss of scholarships and bowl bans ó such as the ones the NCAA levied against Southern California, and could bring down on Ohio State, might not come to Penn State.
In that case, the image of the program will be tarnished, but the foundation would likely be strong.
If thatís the case, consider any top coach a candidate. Boise Stateís Chris Petersen and TCUís Gary Patterson tend to be mentioned for every job opening.
Oregonís Chip Kelly would seemingly have everything a coach could want, but he was born in New Hampshire so maybe a move from the Northwest to the Northeast would be appealing.
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald has already shown he can win at a program with high-academic standards and his character has never been in question. And who better to coach Linebacker U. than a former linebacker. That said, the 36-year-old Fitzgerald went to Northwestern and is fiercely loyal to the school.
Virginiaís Mike London has recruiting connections in the mid-Atlantic region, a hot spot for Penn State.
Another guy to consider is Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, who has been with the Hawkeyes 13 years. Ferentz seems entrenched in Iowa City, but he went to high school in Pittsburgh and is only 56 years old. So heís got another quarter-century ahead of him, by Penn State standards.