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Meyer could be the logical choice for Penn State

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Ralph D. Russo
November 10, 2011

Penn State needs a coach. Urban Meyer is available.


Let the speculation begin.


The last game Meyer coached for Florida, his Gators beat Joe Paterno and Penn State in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1.


Meyer, then 46, needed a break from coaching. Paterno, having just turned 84, was seemingly going strong.


“He will go down as the greatest football coach in the history of the game. Every young coach, in my opinion, can take a lesson from him,” Meyer said after that game in Tampa, Fla.


“If I ever start a coaching school, I’m going to make everybody do a book report on Joe Paterno, and say that’s the way you should act in coaching because that’s college football. ... You just don’t want to lose that man or lose what college football is. That was college football out there today.”


Now it’s possible Meyer could be the man to replace Paterno, the winningest coach in Division I history, whose 46-season run with the Nittany Lions ended because of a child sex abuse scandal involving a former assistant coach.


Paterno was ousted Wednesday night by the Penn State board of trustees, after earlier in the day he announced he would retire at the end of the season. The university president was also fired and the athletic director at Penn State has stepped aside, too, so no one even knows who will be hiring the next coach.


And Meyer’s name certainly won’t be the only one to surface as a possible candidate at Penn State.


This, however, is certain: Penn State is going to hire a football coach for the first time since 1966, and one of the most successful in the last decade is on the market.


Even before former Nittany Lions defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was charged with being a serial molester—speeding up Paterno’s departure—there had been talk that Penn State officials had reached out to Meyer about eventually replacing Paterno.


Meyer, now 47, has given no indication that he’s ready to return to coaching—anywhere.


But Meyer has made no commitments.


“I’m not worrying about down the road,” Meyer told The Associated Press in a phone interview last week. “I do miss it. I miss a lot of things about it, but I also am really enjoying another part, that’s I get to watch my kids play sports.”


Some other top candidates have a Penn State connection.


Expect Miami coach Al Golden, a former Joe Pa player, to be mentioned almost as much as Meyer’s.


The 42-year-old Golden was a tight end at Penn State from 1987-91 and was linebackers coach there in 2000, the season after Sandusky retired.


The New Jersey native went on to become coach at Temple in Philadelphia. In four years there, he revitalized a program that was one of the worst in college football.


Miami hired him away after last season and he unexpectedly walked into a massive NCAA investigation. Even with all the tumult, Golden’s Hurrcianes are 5-4.


There was a time Rutgers coach Greg Schiano was thought to be a top candidate to replace Paterno.


Schiano never played at Penn State, but Paterno gave him his first big break in coaching, promoting him from graduate assistant to defensive backs coach under Sandusky in 1991. Schiano, a New Jersey native, was at Penn State until 1995 and took over at Rutgers in 2001.


Meanwhile, Boise State’s Chris Petersen and TCU’s Gary Patterson tend to be mentioned for every job opening.


Oregon’s Chip Kelly would seemingly have everything a coach could want, but he was born in New Hampshire so maybe a move from the Northwest to the Northeast would be appealing.


Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald has already shown he can win at a program with high-academic standards and his character has never been in question. And who better to coach Linebacker U. than a former linebacker. That said, the 36-year-old Fitzgerald went to Northwestern and is fiercely loyal to the school.


Virginia’s Mike London has recruiting connections in the mid-Atlantic region, a hot spot for Penn State.


Another guy to consider is Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, who has been with the Hawkeyes 13 years.


If the school is looking for someone with impeccable character to lead the program out of this sordid scandal, former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, could be a fit.


Still, the Meyer-to-Penn State talk had already started before Happy Valley turned gloomy. It will only get louder from here.



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