Penn State Football Coach Search is Dave Joyner’s Show
Let there be no mistake, this is Dave Joyner’s hire.
While speaking with reporters at a TicketCity Bowl function in Dallas Thursday night, Joyner made it clear:
He is the one calling the shots.
“I have not made a final decision yet,” said Joyner, Penn State's acting athletic director.
“Why haven’t you hired someone?” he was asked.
“I haven’t chosen to do that,” he replied, “because we’re evaluating them and still looking at candidates right now.
There were a few more “I’d like’s” and an “I’ve said’s.” But I think you get the idea.
(For a complete transcript, posted by Mark Wogenrich, a strong and steady Penn State beat reporter from The Call in Allentown, click here.)
JOYNER THE COMMITTEE'S VOICE
Joyner is chair of the committee and its name, face and voice since the six-person group was formed 33 days ago. It’s been 52 days since Joe Paterno was fired on Nov. 9.
There are six members on the committee. Not counting Joyner, four are current or former Penn State employees and none has any college football experience of sort. The sixth member is financier and casino entrepreneur Ira Lubert, a member of the Penn State Board of Trustees. Joyner, too, was on the board until he stepped down in November to run the search as well as oversee the Penn State athletic department’s $116 million operations.
Joyner – a former Penn State All-American wrestler and football player — and Lubert are good friends dating back four decades to when they were teammates on PSU’s wrestling squad. Clearly, they are running the show. (Think otherwise? Penn State volleyball coaching legend Russ Rose is on the committee and he’s in Italy on vacation. And one committee member saw a recent Joyner press statement like everyone else – after it was posted online.)
GRAPPLING FOR A NEW COACH
Joyner and Lubert worked together on Penn State’s last big coaching hire, wrestling legend Cael Sanderson. And it was a winner; PSU took the national title in Sanderson’s second season, its first wrestling championship in 58 years.
There are 95 Division I schools that support wrestling, while there are 120 major college football teams. But finding a new wrestling coach is not akin to finding one for football.
Penn State football brings in a $53 million profit annually and (on occasion) draws 100,000 fans per game. Its 87 percent graduation rate for its football players – including African-Americans -- sets the bar nationally.
So, admittedly, finding the next Sanderson for the gridiron isn’t easy. If it were, Nick Saban, Les Miles or Urban Meyer would already be signed -- although six months ago Meyer was a lot closer to becoming the Nittany Lions’ next head football coach than most people realize.
Instead, while Joyner and Lubert are considering big names, they are also dealing with safety school candidates like Wake Forest’s Jim Grobe (who has a lifetime record two wins over .500) and Duke’s David Cutcliffe (with back-to-back 3-9 records). That doesn’t preclude a home run hire. It’s just that Knute Rockne – a name Joyner jokingly threw out there on Thursday – died in a plane crash 80 years ago. And Joe Paterno had the job, but was fired.
PURPOSEFUL AND DELIBERATE REDUX
Joyner’s 10-minute session was his second meeting with reporters – the first was Nov. 19; he issued a statement last week; and he’s made a pair of in-house videos that have been posted on the Penn State athletics department's website.
His statements Thursday night were consistent with earlier messages, i.e.: “As I've said, we’re being purposeful and deliberate…”
Joyner indicated that he and his committee “haven’t negotiated a contract with anybody…haven’t made a final decision on the next coach and waiting for after the bowl game.”
Joyner said he’s well-aware that there’s an open period Jan. 4-7, when coaches are permitted by the NCAA to visit with recruits. But that’s not his immediate concern. He hopes to have a new head coach in place in time for the next recruiting window, Jan. 13-28, before the national signing date of Feb. 1.
“I’d like to get this finished so that whoever the head coach is -- be it (interim coach Tom) Bradley or be it somebody else -- has enough time to really interact with recruits,” Joyner said.
“There’s a three-week open period at the end (of January). That would be nice. I’m not going to let that dictate, if there are a couple days one way or the other. But I think it would be very good for recruits.”