Joe Paterno has been head coach at Penn State since the mid-60’s. He has won more games than anyone ever during that time. He has left enormous shoes to fill. So who will Penn State choose to take his place?
Urban Meyer and Al Golden will likely be the first two coaches contacted by whomever takes over as AD at State College. Hall of Famer and former Lion, and current Titans coach, Mike Munchak will also likely be reached out to.
Penn State is still great job, with a loyal fan base, that pack a 100,000+ seat stadium each and every Saturday. The school has had a bit of roller coaster ride in the standings the last decade or so, but clearly the ups indicate that great achievement can still be had in Happy Valley. The Lions will aim high, and should.
Urban Meyer’s roots are in Big Ten country. He wanted away from coaching and the time-consuming aspect of it. He wanted to spend more time with his family, but he also accepted a job at ESPN before the Gators replaced him as coach, so you take the whole “family” thing with a grain of salt.
Meyer could take a sleeping giant to the next level, he already has at Florida. He would inherit pretty good talent and a solid recruiting base. And if he were to win, he’d jump to legendary status, not just winning a 3rd title, but winning it at a place that would adore him for it and celebrate it with national recognition.
Certainly one thing we know about Meyer is that he doesn’t necessarily care about the coaches that came before him. He didn’t have to follow Steve Spurrier, but he certainly didn’t mind coaching in the legendary Gator’s shadown. Following Paterno at Penn State could be even more daunting, but Meyer would not be intimidated.
Al Golden, a former player and coach with Penn State, also could be a strong possibility. Golden was asked recently about his status with Miami, and continued to pledge his committment to the Canes. Of course, he didn’t know the Penn State job was about to open up either.
Golden would be despised by some in Miami if he left after just one season, but I think the feeling nationally would be that he was ambushed by the off-the-field issues he was forced to inherit, and be viewed as a sympathetic figure if he chose to leave. Leaving a job he just started would be difficult nonetheless. And in some ways, he would be going from a bad situation, to a tricky situation.
Penn State fans will expect whoever takes over to win, and win right away. The team is 8-1 this year, and fans will expect that to be the take-off point. Winning a Big Ten title in 2012 might be the expectation from the jump. And a national title shortly thereafter. There is no question the leash will be shorter and tighter than it ever was with Paterno.
It is amazing to consider, with Paterno leaving, that only 6 coaches in I-A football have been at their current jobs previous to the year 2000. Six. People don’t stay at places long, and aren’t given a very long opportunity. Something Golden would have to consider. At Penn State he’d have 3 years to get it right, in a big way. At Miami, the scandel he has nothing to do with, has bought him time.
Meyer has nothing but time being out of coaching. He can pick his spot, and very few spots will be better than Penn State.