Penn State Nittany Lions Football: 5 Candidates to Replace Joe Paterno
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Penn State football and Joe Paterno will likely part ways at the end of the 2011 college football season. Though most thought this was the last season for Paterno anyway, the recent Jerry Sandusky sex scandal seems to be the nail in the coffin.
With the door shut on Paterno’s long and illustrious career, who will succeed him as head coach of the Nittany Lions?
Before the recent grand jury indictment, the head coaching position in Happy Valley appeared to be one of college football’s most attractive spots for a premiere coach. Oh, how things can change in a week.
Before the Sandusky scandal, it was likely Penn State could court former Florida Gators coach Urban Meyer. Now, Nittany Lions fans will have to set their sights lower.
Who’s available to succeed Paterno after he leaves the program with a black eye on what was otherwise a remarkable career?
Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images
Mike Leach is the most attractive coach besides Urban Meyer—who is not coaching. Caught up in small town Texas politics and ESPN media coverage protecting Craig James and his son, Leach was unfairly forced out as Texas Tech’s head coach.
Tarnished but looking to return to a major program, Leach would be an excellent fit for Penn State if it’s unable to lure a top-tier coach with a clean slate. Leach brings a prolific offense with him and an attitude of discipline to his teams. Despite his own black eye, he could help the Nittany Lions forget about its current scandal. Will Penn State shy away from him after their own scandal, though?
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Gus Malzahn parlayed his Springdale Five football recruits into a Division I coaching position at Arkansas under Houston Nutt. An opportunistic coach whose offenses are among the most productive in the nation, Malzahn will be the next great head coach, once he decides to leave his offensive coordinator position at Auburn.
It seems like Malzahn knows his own value and is not easily persuaded to take just any head coaching position. It looks like he’s waiting on a major program to come calling where he has a high probability of succeeding. Penn State is a historic program in fertile territory. The question is whether Malzahn will be scared away by the current scandal.
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
June Jones has proven he can take his offense anywhere. As the coach at Hawaii, he single-handedly turned quarterback Timmy Chang into one of college football’s all-time record holders in the passing game.
After tiring of the good life in Hawaii, Jones has taken his game to SMU, which lived permanently at the bottom of Conference USA before his arrival. Jones has a model for success at the college level. It’s only a matter of time before a BCS program reaps the fruits of his success. Will Penn State take that chance?
Norm Hall/Getty Images
If Penn State finds itself searching every nook and cranny for a coach, it may want to consider the Pittsburgh Steelers' quarterbacks coach, Randy Fichtner. Fichtner is a Purdue graduate, where he played safety with NFL great Rod Woodson. Though his playing career was on defense, Fichtner is an offensive mastermind.
Before coaching receivers and quarterbacks at the Steelers, Fichtner had stints at USC and Memphis. Actually, Memphis is where Fichtner met Mike Tomlin. As offensive coordinator, Fichtner’s offense and eccentric personality powered to the Tigers to the top tier of college football’s offensive statistics.
With the Steelers brand behind him and a natural inclination for recruiting, Fichtner could be a low-profile diamond in the rough for a Penn State athletic department reeling from the scandal.
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
“The savior of Rome!”
Could Al Golden return to Happy Valley and save the program from the media circus engulfing the campus?
Golden showed he could coach while at Temple, and he was so successful that he was hired by the Miami Hurricanes to take over for Randy Shannon. With stiff sanctions, and maybe the death penalty, on the horizon for Miami, Golden looks like a prime candidate for Penn State.
Golden is a former Joe Paterno player and doesn’t hide his love for the school. He’s certainly no stranger to adversity, so he’ll have practice handling media issues stemming from the ongoing legal assault on Penn State. Will Golden be able to save the Nittany Lions from despair?