The terrible hangover from Saturday’s annihilation at the hands of Wisconsin should have subsided for most of us by now. After a few days of detox, I’m ready to think about football again. And football for PSU right now is all about the future.
Usually the highest order of business this time of year is crunching depth charts for next year. Assessing strengths and weaknesses. Scanning the horizon for future super stars among the redshirts or incoming freshmen.
But this year, much weightier issues loom. Beyond the legal proceedings, which are out ahead of us all and will hopefully include a less-venomous media onslaught, choosing a new head coach is first on the agenda.
Monday saw the official naming of a search committee. Although most of us have probably never analyzed the members of a search committee for anything before, some felt justified to be outraged by the participants of said committee. So be it.
Tuesday we had our first full-fledged coaching rumor, complete with a random news station citing an unknown source and ESPN’s rumor-shill Joe Schad confirming it. It would be shocking if Penn State hires Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen this quickly, but who knows? Our heads haven’t stopped spinning 360s since early November.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in this chaos, it’s that Penn State fans are not ready for the change they’ve all claimed to be so ready for.
First off, Tom Bradley would not be regime change. Sure, Scrap might replace a few position coaches and probably the offensive coordinator, but you have to assume that at least 50% of the staff would remain. Given the swift action that the Board of Trustees took with Paterno, I can’t imagine a scenario where most of Paterno’s staff get to stick around for the foreseeable future.
Bradley aside, we’re looking at two impending realities. No. 1. A new head coach who brings in an entirely new staff. Or No. 2. A new head coach who keeps a few of our existing coaches. In either situation, Penn State football—beginning in the next week or two, most likely—will have a vastly different composition.
We all know this. But do we all KNOW this? Has it sunk in yet?
After five decades of occasional, gradual change and one pillar holding it all together (Joe Paterno), our staff will see seismic shifts never before experienced in our lifetimes.
The new guy will do some things differently. He’ll say some things that rub us the wrong way. He might fire a guy on his staff we were fond of. He might hire someone with a shaky reputation. We might have players who don’t like him and transfer out, kids that we followed since their junior years of high school and were hoping would emerge as Lion legends.
Heck, regardless of what we think about the new guy, he might not be the right guy. He might clash with PSU’s traditions and not win (ala Rich Rodriguez at Michigan). He might only last 3-4 years before we tell him to move along. This isn’t abnormal in college football today, so why should Penn State fans rule this out?
Those are the downsides. There are upsides too.
He might revitalize recruiting. He might bring in new coaching blood that energizes the players and coaches them up to their fullest potential. He might be the best thing to happen to Penn State football in decades. He might continue right along the tradition of “success with honor” and make us all proud to be Penn Staters again.
But it’s all up in the air right now. Some see the glass as half-full; some half-empty; some have their eyes closed and don’t even want to look at the glass.
And that’s okay too. We’re in a place right now as a collective fan base where we’ve never been before. Uncertainty and fear are to be expected.
I think we should embrace it. Whoever the hire ends up being, let’s root for him, shrug off the downsides, and believe in the upsides. Crazy days and crazy years are ahead for a school spoiled by stability, and I think we’ll all enjoy the ride a lot more if we stick together.