Penn State coaching vacancy is 'toxic situation'

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State's 23-day search for a new football coach has been tight-lipped.

And, according to an agent who represents a number of major college coaches, there may be a good reason for it.

"The Penn State job is a toxic situation -- everybody is steering clear of it," the agent told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Monday.

Since the search for Joe Paterno's replacement began with the formation of a six-person committee Nov. 28, Penn State has met with at least six coaching candidates.

Three are on Penn State's coaching staff: quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno, defensive line coach Larry Johnson and interim coach Tom Bradley, the team's former defensive coordinator.

Penn State also has talked with Nebraska coach Bo Pelini; Baylor associate head coach Brian Norwood, a former Penn State assistant; and Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach Tom Clements, a former Steelers assistant coach and native of McKees Rocks.

Other viable candidates for the job are Florida International coach Mario Cristobal, considered the top choice for the vacancy at Pitt, Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald and former Penn State offensive lineman Mike Munchak, who is in his first year as the NFL's Tennessee Titans coach.

The Penn State program is reeling from the child sexual abuse scandal involving former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. Paterno was fired Nov. 9, along with university president Graham Spanier. Athletic director Tim Curley is on administrative leave while fighting perjury charges, along with senior vice president Gary Schultz, who has retired since the charges were filed.

"We may be conducting our search a little different than other people," acting athletic director Dave Joyner said recently in a video interview displayed on the athletic department's website. "I'm not saying they're not, but we're being very methodical and precise about what we're doing and who we're talking to."

Bradley, 55, interviewed Friday for the job, but he is considered a long shot for the position even though he will lead the Nittany Lions through their TicketCity Bowl matchup Jan. 2 against Houston in Dallas.

He said Monday at the team's bowl media day that he has not been given a timetable for when Joyner will make a decision.

Penn State president Rodney Erickson has said he hopes to have a new coach in place by the bowl game. But quarterback Matt McGloin said Monday he doesn't expect any decision "until after the bowl game."

Clements, 58, was interviewed Friday via a conference call with the search committee. He has 19 years of coaching experience, including two as an offensive coordinator with the Buffalo Bills in the NFL.

Prior to joining the Packers staff in 2006, he spent 10 seasons coaching quarterbacks under coaches such as Bill Cowher, Mike Ditka and Lou Holtz.

Clements, a former quarterback, played 12 years in the Canadian Football League. He was an All-American at Notre Dame in 1974 and finished fourth in Heisman Trophy balloting that year. He practiced law for five years before beginning his coaching career.

Norwood, 46, was among three candidates who interviewed for the opening Sunday at Hawaii. Earlier this month, he was interviewed by Penn State.

He is in his fourth season at Baylor, and his first as associate head coach. Prior to that, he spent seven seasons as the safeties coach at Penn State.

Norwood's son, Jordan, is a former Penn State wide receiver playing for the Cleveland Browns. Another son, Levi, is a redshirt freshman receiver at Baylor after initially signing with Penn State out of high school.

Pelini, 44, was interviewed last week in Texas by Joyner, but a source close to the search said he no longer is considered to be in the mix.

Pelini, one of the finalists for the Pitt job when Dave Wannstedt was hired in 2005, has a 39-15 record in four seasons with the Cornhuskers. After graduating from Youngstown's Cardinal Mooney High School, Pelini played free safety at Ohio State from 1987-90.

Even though there are three coaches on Penn State's staff who have head coaching experience, none of them have been interviewed.

They are offensive coordinator Galen Hall (Florida), offensive line coach Dick Anderson (Rutgers) and linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden (Maryland). Hall and Anderson are expected to retire after the bowl game.

Sophomore tailback Silas Redd said Monday he hopes a permanent coach is named soon.

"Naturally, you would like somebody to get the job from within the program," Redd said. "But I would understand if they decided to hire a coach from the outside."

Ron Musselman: and Twitter @rmusselmanppg. First Published December 20, 2011 5:00 AM


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