Coaching search committee panelist hopes to talk to Paterno

Women's volleyball coach Rose values ex-coach's input

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno frequently has referred to women's volleyball coach Russ Rose as the best coach on campus.

The feeling is mutual.

Rose, a member of the recently appointed six-person search committee in charge of hiring a new football coach, would like to reach out to Paterno, although it is not a part of the official process.

Paterno, a Hall of Famer who won a record 409 games in 46 seasons, was fired Nov. 9 because of the child sexual abuse scandal involving former Nittany Lions defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.

"I hope to have a conversation with Joe," Rose said during an interview last week in his office at Rec Hall. "I don't have any pictures. I don't have any autographs, but let me tell you, I'm a huge fan.

"I'm sad about all of this."

Rose, who has led his team to more than 1,000 wins and five NCAA national championships since 1979, said he would understand if Paterno balked at offering his input on the new coach.

"If that happens, I'll just give him a hug and tell him, 'Thanks for all you've done,'" Rose said.

When Penn State hired Paterno to replace Rip Engle nearly 46 years ago, there was no search committee. The entire process to hire Paterno, an assistant to Engle for 16 years, lasted just one day, according to Lou Prato, author of the Penn State Football Encyclopedia and the school's unofficial historian.

Engle, Paterno's college coach at Brown, handpicked Paterno as his successor.

Engle planned to formally announce his retirement Feb. 18, 1966, but Pittsburgh sportscaster Tom Bender, Penn State's broadcasting play-by-play man, broke the news the previous night on KDKA-TV.

Penn State athletic director Ernie McCoy, who was born in Pittsburgh, and university president Eric Walker acted quickly, hiring Paterno on Feb. 19. He was 39 at the time and became the 14th coach in the program's 79-year history.

Earlier this summer, Paterno recalled the conversation he had with McCoy regarding his salary after succeeding Engle.

"[Ernie] called me in the office and said, 'Rip is retiring,'" Paterno said. "I said, 'Yeah, he told me.'"

"Do you want this job?" McCoy asked.

"Yeah," Paterno said.

"OK, it's yours," McCoy answered. "Ten thousand bucks a year."

Paterno paused when he told the story: "Then [McCoy] said, 'I'm teasing, $20,000 you're getting.' I never signed a contract."

The search for Penn State's 15th coach in 125 years enters its sixth day today. This hire figures to cost the university millions more than it did in 1966.

According to a recent USA Today story, the 84-year-old Paterno ranked 11th among the Big Ten Conference's 12 coaches this year with a salary of $1,022,794.

Newly hired Ohio State coach Urban Meyer's six-year contract includes a $4 million annual base salary and "retention payments" that will make his deal worth at least $26.4 million if he is still the coach Jan. 31, 2018.

In the major conferences with automatic BCS bids, head coaches are making an average of $2.125 million.

Success, however it is defined, typically comes with a hefty price tag.

"Penn State's a brand, it's not just a university," Rose said. "Football is a separate entity, although it's such a large part of the experience for students when they come here and it's such an important part of some people's lives.

"We're just trying to pick up the pieces... there's no blueprint for how this hiring thing is going to work. We are moving slowly. I think a good Penn State hire for the football position would be somebody that's going to be committed to recruiting quality student-athletes that want to get a good education and want to be good citizens.

"Somebody that's going be able to reach their arms out and embrace the Penn State family, which is 500,000 or 600,000 alumni who have their heads down and are beaten up by this [Sandusky scandal].

"We need somebody who has the ability to be the face of the university in the community," he added, "in fundraising and in helping heal the masses."

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

Joining Joyner and Rose, whose team is participating in the NCAA tournament this weekend, are Ira Lubert, chairman and co-founder of Independence Capital Partners and Lubert-Adler Partners and a member of the board of trustees; John Nichols, emeritus professor of the college of communications and chairman of Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics; Linda Caldwell, faculty athletics representative and a Gateway High School graduate; and Charmelle Green, an associate athletic director and senior woman administrator who was hired in June.

Joyner and Lubert, former Penn State wrestling teammates, were responsible for hiring high-profile Nittany Lions wrestling coach Cael Sanderson in April 2009. He led Penn State to its first national title in 58 years in March.

Joyner and Lubert also are considered the main figures in the search for a new football coach.

"As an alumnus, a season ticket holder, I would trust Joyner and Lubert with this decision," said Norm Palovcsik, a former Penn State wrestling teammate of both men. "They're different in how they approach things, but they're both extremely successful in what they do.

"Dave is a no-nonsense guy. It's going to be goals, it's going to be about getting Penn State back to what the university stands for. And Ira, in addition to having a multi-million dollar business, is the brightest man I've ever been around. He is the most astute guy on that whole committee."

Interim coach Tom Bradley, who is 1-2 since replacing Paterno and will lead the team through a bowl game, is scheduled to interview this week. He is considered a long shot.

Other viable candidates for the coaching position include Harvard's Tim Murphy, Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald, Virginia's Mike London, TCU's Gary Patterson, Wake Forest's Jim Grobe, former NFL head coach Tony Dungy and Green Bay Packers assistant Darren Perry, a former Penn State team captain and All-American safety who lacks college coaching experience.

Stanford coach David Shaw, Mississippi State's Dan Mullen, Boise State's Chris Petersen and Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak, a former Penn State offensive lineman who is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, have been linked to the opening.

However, sources say those four either are not interested in the position or likely won't be interviewed

Erickson said this past week he hopes to have a coach in place by the bowl game.

"It's a stressful thing because Penn State football, it's more than just about a team," Rose said. "It's a quality of life, it's a social experience. Even though I'm not in it, I've witnessed it.

"What we're going to try to do is find the right people for the job and talk with them about the position. At some point and time, one would think it would be pretty clear who should be the next coach."

Joyner has said he would have no objection to hiring "a Penn State-tied person." And Erickson has said the criteria for selecting a new coach is "wide open."

But the makeup of the search committee has been criticized by former Penn State players, including All-American running backs Lydell Mitchell and Charlie Pittman. Both told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the panel lacks "football minds" -- other than Joyner -- and "racial diversity."

The women on the panel, Caldwell and Green, both declined interview requests. Green is the only African-American member.

Critics believe Penn State should hire a new coach without any connections to the school. Toward that end, it appears the search committee is not reaching out to seek input from those connected to Paterno or Sandusky.

"I'm not aware of any former players being asked to be on any committees regarding the coaching search," said Tim Sweeney, a Derry High School graduate who is president of the Penn State Football Letterman's Club, which represents close to 1,000 former players and managers.


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


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