Replacing Paterno: Search committee member knows what she wants in coach

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Linda Caldwell believes she can make a valuable contribution as a member of the six-person coaching search committee in charge of finding Joe Paterno's replacement.

She confesses she doesn't have "a football mind" and "knows nothing about coaching," but Caldwell does know the kind of person Penn State should be looking to hire because she has been on search committees before.

She has been the school's faculty athletic representative to the NCAA since July 2010. She has been on every Penn State search committee involving athletics but one since her appointment, including the group that hired men's basketball coach Pat Chambers in June.

Caldwell, a Gateway High School graduate who doubles as a professor of recreation, park and tourism management, is one of two women on the football search committee. Charmelle Green, hired in June as an associate athletic director and senior woman administrator, is the other.

Acting athletic director Dave Joyner, a former Penn State football player, wrestler and board of trustees member, was appointed Nov. 28 by President Rodney Erickson to lead the search committee.

The panel is in the early stages of interviewing prospective coaching candidates. Caldwell, a 1976 Penn State graduate, said the search has produced many quality candidates, although she declined to reveal any names.

"I'm getting emails and calls every day -- we all are," Caldwell said Tuesday. "I can't answer if anyone is shying away from this job [because of the child sex abuse scandal involving Jerry Sandusky]. But I can tell you there is a lot of interest."

Paterno, a Hall of Fame coach who won a record 409 games in 46 seasons, was fired Nov. 9 because of the scandal.

The turmoil has had an effect on the football program, which slipped down in the postseason pecking order to the TicketCity Bowl.

No. 24 Penn State (9-3) will face No. 20 Houston (12-1) Jan. 2 at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. That matchup, when announced Sunday, produced several critical tweets, followed by a players-only meeting.

Penn State officials like Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald as one of the potential successors to Paterno's position. But a source close to Fitzgerald told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Tuesday that he didn't think Fitzgerald would be interested in the job, but he "wouldn't rule it out."

Michigan considered Fitzgerald for its vacant coaching position in January, but he decided to remain at his alma mater and the Wolverines eventually hired Brady Hoke.

Fitzgerald, 37, signed a 10-year contract extension in May that is worth roughly $1.8 million per year and runs through the 2020 season.

Green Bay Packers assistant Darren Perry, whose agent told the Post-Gazette Thursday that his client would take "a hard look" at Penn State if approached, also has not been contacted, a source said. Perry, 42, was an All-American safety who played for the Nittany Lions from 1988-91. Perry also has ties to Paterno and Sandusky, who served as his defensive coordinator with the Nittany Lions.

The Penn State search committee already has given a courtesy interview to quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno, while interim head coach Tom Bradley is expected to be interviewed this week.

Former NFL coach Tony Dungy, who also played and coached for the Steelers, said Monday that he is not interested in the Penn State job.

Other coaching candidates include Harvard's Tim Murphy, Virginia's Mike London, TCU's Gary Patterson and Houston's Kevin Sumlin.

Joyner and Bradley were among the Penn State contingent that attended the National Football Foundation's College Hall of Fame awards dinner Tuesday night at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. Numerous Division I coaches were on hand for the event.

Caldwell said while academics will be a key requirement in hiring a new coach, the fact remains, "we have to win."

Penn State had an 87 percent graduation success rate under Paterno, according to the most recent data released by the NCAA in October.

"We're way up there in football and we want to continue that," Caldwell said. "And the next person who comes in has to know football and has to win.

"You can do that by recruiting the right type of kids and knowing how to work with kids who have a lot of character, academic potential and athletic potential."

Erickson said last week he hopes to have a coach in place by the bowl game, but Caldwell is not sure if that will happen.

"Ideally, we'd hire someone before the bowl game, before Christmas," she said. "That's the general target out there, but I don't think anybody wants to make a wrong decision.

"Whatever decision we make, some people will be happy, some people won't. We want to feel, in our heart of hearts, that this is the right decision for Penn State at this moment and this time, to lead the program under the current situation while keeping the integrity of athletics and academics.

"It's going to be a tough challenge."


Ron Musselman: rmusselman@post-gazette.com and Twitter @rmusselmanppg.


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