The Penn State coaching search is–without hyperbole–one like no other. Think about it. Never has someone left shoes to fill as big as Paterno’s, never has a school been more in limbo than Penn State, never has a football community been so attacked and grieved and ashamed.
As the coaching search has lapped the one-month mark, a timetable for Penn State’s hire is a mystery for everyone. Originally, A.D. Joyner said a week or two. Then, a month. Most recently, President Erickson said around bowl time is a good estimate. It could end tomorrow or in two months, and I’m not sure anyone would be shocked. The circumstances around this hire are just so unique that there is no precedent out there to follow.
Waiting for such a monumental decision to be made has been excruciating for Penn State fans, especially in the wake of all the other powerful and painful emotions of the past few months. Fixing our eyes ahead could be a helpful practice.
Although no one knows who the top candidate is, who a realistic candidate is, or what factors are still in play for a decision to be made, below are some dates to be watching for if you’re scanning the horizon for signs and omens.
December 23–The day after Boise State’s bowl game. If Chris Petersen is interested, we could hear buzz starting after this season’s responsibilities end for him. If he’s already in the bag, then PSU could announce their hire immediately following the MAACO Bowl in Las Vegas.
December 31–The day after Mississippi State’s bowl game. Too much buzz has surrounded Mullen and the Penn State job to anticipate any more. If Mullen is signed/sealed/delivered, then all he and PSU are waiting for is the bowl game to conclude. This is also the day after Greg Schiano coaches Rutgers in its bowl game and Kirk Ferentz coaches Iowa in its.
Januar 1–The day after Northwestern’s and Vanderbilt’s bowl games. Like I said, who knows if any of the rumors have traction, but Fitzgerald and Franklin have been volleyed around.
January 2–The day after the NFL regular season ends. Numerous names have swirled from the NFL ranks, but Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak stirs the imagination most. Problem is, the Titans are still in the playoff race and with two chump opponents in their remaining three games, it’s possible they’ll get a wild card spot. The Colts’ Jim Caldwell will probably be fired on this day. Other NFL-rejects will also come available, although this scenario causes churning stomachs among Nittany Lions.
January 3–The day after Penn State’s bowl game. For continuity’s sake, it’s possible that Penn State is waiting for the game to end to make a clean break. It’s even possible that Bradley will be named.
The search is wide open, but the above dates would be ethical points for current coaches to switch jobs. Penn State doesn’t want to cause more ill will by stealing another school’s coach pre-bowl. The only outcome I could imagine causing unrest among the Lion Faithful would be if–in mid-January, let’s say–Penn State waited two months to choose a coach who has been available the whole time (like Harvard’s Tim Murphy or our own Tom Bradley). We hope we’re waiting for good reason. We’re ready to root for the new regime.