Just one short month ago, Penn State was one of the most sought after college football coaching jobs in the entire country.
Following the scandal involving Jerry Sandusky, and his alleged sexual abuse of children, the Nittany Lions may have to settle for a guy no one knows.
Rumors are still running rampant that the university can land a bigger name coach to replace the legendary Paterno like Urban Meyer, but he would not be the best choice. He had plenty of success while at Florida, but his players also got in a lot of trouble with the law during his tenure.
There is one guy who’s name keeps popping up and he is Pat Fitzgerald. The current coach of Northwestern is a legend in his own right at the school, having led the Wildcats to a Rose Bowl while winning the Nagurski and Bednarick awards twice. He was even inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
But what makes him more appealing is his clean record and solid results despite not having the best players. He was invited by the Illinois Legislature in 2009 to serve on the Illinois Reform Commission aimed at rooting out political corruption. Fitzgerald is also 38-34 in the Big Ten despite not being able to recruit the same players as other schools because of Northwestern’s strict admissions standards.
If you're Penn State, who do you go after first?
What is also appealing is his ability to get great quarterbacks. Mike Kafka, Dan Persa and now Kain Colter all have been excellent players and Kafka is Mike Vick’s backup for the Philadelphia Eagles. Persa will certainly follow in his footsteps, and Colter is still developing.
The only real problem with the potential hire is that he is loyal to his school. According to Kafka, “It’s hard to believe any former Northwestern athlete bleeds more purple than Coach Fitz.”
Luring anyone away from his or her alma mater is a challenge. The only real way to do it is to throw a lot of money at the coach and Penn State may not have much left after this scandal is done with—there are expected to be multiple lawsuits directed at the university.
Whether or not he would accept an offer is anyone’s guess at this point, but in terms of quality coaching on and off the field, Penn State could not do much better than Pat Fitzgerald.