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Penn State Football: Committee's Search for New Coach Has Already Started

by on January 02, 2014 3:20 AM

Penn State has already started searching for a new head football coach.

It has a six-person committee, a five-man wish list and the guarantee of a $6.7 million check for the buyout of Bill O’Brien’s contract. The Houston Texans will foot the bill.

That cash will come in handy when Penn State starts negotiating with its top candidate -- which it expects to be soon. The former coach didn’t come cheap; for PSU's current fiscal year (July 1, 2013 – June 30, 2014), O’Brien was slated to make $4.2 million. Guaranteed. Before bonuses.

Penn State hopes all the search sense and departure-producing dollars add up to its 16th head football coach in 128 years – and the Nittany Lions’ fourth in 27 months.

More news of the search will be shared on Thursday at an 11 a.m. press conference in the media room of Beaver Stadium. Athletic director Dave Joyner is expected to answer some of the search questions people are seeking – although the coveted Top 5 list is likely to stay a secret.

Meantime, you can check the list below, in case you are searching for:

-- A list of head coach candidates. Penn State’s primary wish list includes Miami (Fla.) head coach Al Golden, a former Penn State player, 1991 team captain and assistant coach who was also head coach at Temple; Jim Caldwell, a former PSU quarterbacks coach and head coach at Wake Forest and with the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts; and likely James Franklin, a Pennsylvania native, East Stroudsburg graduate and head coach at Vanderbilt.

Also on that list may be Tennessee Titan head coach Mike Munchak, a second-team All-America guard at PSU and a Pro Football Hall of Famer, and Greg Schiano, former Rutgers head coach and recently fired Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach after an 11-21 two-year record. If he makes the list, Schiano is likely ranked at the bottom.

-- The members of the six-person search committee. A blend of old and new football search committee members has been tabbed to find O’Brien’s successor. The group is chaired by athletic director Dr. Dave Joyner, who spearheaded search committee efforts that resulted in O'Brien's hire two years ago. Unlike the 2012 group that hired O’Brien, the 2014 team does not include a board of trustees member or an academic representative who is not affiliated with the athletic department. Trustee Ira Lubert and professor emeritus John Nichols filled those lots, respectively, during the last search.

The 2014 group is expected to include three repeats: Joyner; Dr. Linda Caldwell, Penn State’s NCAA faculty representative and a faculty member in Penn State’s Recreation, Park and Management department, and Charmelle Green, associate athletic director and senior woman administrator.

Other than Joyner (co-captain of the 1971 team that was 11-1), the previous search team did not include a football player. Not so this time around. Wally Richardson, who was 20-5 as a starting quarterback for PSU in 1995 and ’96, is expected to be part of the 2014 search team. Richardson was hired in April 2013 as director of the Football Letterman’s Club, an alumni group of over 1,000 dues-paying former PSU football players and managers. He was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection who earned his masters in higher education from Penn State in 2003.

Richardson played two years with the Baltimore Ravens in the NFL and for five years he was associate director of the student-athlete service center at the University of Georgia. Caldwell, Green and Richardson did not respond to email messages sent Wednesday.

Also expected to be on the committee are a senior-level administrator and a coach of one of Penn State’s 31 varsity teams. The latter, says one source, is a veteran coach of a PSU men’s team not in season. It’s a limited group: Greg Nye (golf), Mark Pavlik (volleyball) Jeff Tambroni (lacrosse) and Bob Warming (soccer). In 2012, women’s volleyball coach Russ Rose served on the search committee but will not be a part of the official search in 2014.

-- Even more money for O’Brien, had he stayed at Penn State for a third year. In the latter stages of the most recent negotiations, the university offered him “a lot of money,” said a reliable Penn State source.

-- A ring with hats in it. When news of the possibility of O’Brien leaving started to filter out after Thanksgiving, there were a number of inquiries directed at Penn State from several coaches at other schools and their representatives.

-- Charles London’s telephone number. London, the Nittany Lions’ running back coach and recruiting coordinator the past two seasons, has already changed his cell number.

-- A quick recruiting strategy. From Dec. 15 through Jan. 16 is a new “dead period” for college football recruiting. Coaches and school representatives are not permitted to initiate contact with recruits. They can connect with recruits via certain social media avenues, such as direct messaging through Twitter. Recruits may also initiate telephone calls.

Penn State’s director of player personnel, Bill Kavanaugh departed nearly two weeks to coach at Bentley College. In addition to longtime Nittany Lion assistant Larry Johnson, named Wednesday as the interim head of the football program, that leaves two recruiting specialists in their 20s, plus a third staffer who has been at Penn State less than a year. Still, it’s a highly capable group that was a real favorite of O’Brien’s, especially after he rebuilt the entire recruiting organization to model that of Alabama and Nick Saban. The system includes an intern for every coach, including LJ – so that bit of extra help is already built in.

The good news for Penn State: If a new head coach is hired soon and quickly brings in a few new assistants, they would have time to create and even implement a plan as soon as the dead period ends. (See below.)

-- A coach who can hit the ground running. Of all the candidates, Golden is best – and almost ideally – suited to hit the recruiting trail immediately and even build upon what O’Brien started, especially n Western PA. At Temple, Golden recruited Pennsylvania and New Jersey extensively, and knows the terrain geographically, historically and personally – given his New Jersey roots and years at Penn State, he has dozens of key relationships already in place. Expect the same from many of his assistants, if Golden is hired.

-- A good time to say good-bye. With a midnight deadline imposed by Houston looming, O’Brien reached out to Penn State president Rod Erickson and Joyner after 10 p.m. on New Year's Eve to tell them that he was leaving Penn State. O’Brien did not officially resign until Wednesday.

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Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979. He is a senior lecturer in Penn State's College of Communications and teaches a pair of classes in the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism: “Sports Writing” and “Introduction to the Sports Industry.” He created and taught for several years the Center’s course on “Joe Paterno, Communications and The Media.” Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PSUPoorman. His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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