Lions in the Dark on Coaching Search

Penn State players have not been kept in the loop as the school looks for Joe Paterno's replacement.

DALLAS -- As Penn State's search for a new head football coach continues to drag out, Nittany Lion players admit they really have no idea what is going on.

“We talked to the athletic director,” redshirt junior center Matt Stankiewitch said. “But we don't know who's going to be the next coach because they're still interviewing. No one knows who's gonna be the next coach. The best thing you can do is keep your head out of what's going on and focus on football.”

Penn State, under interim head coach Tom Bradley, faces Houston in the TicketCity Bowl here Jan. 2. Bradley replaced longtime coach Joe Paterno, who was fired Nov. 8 in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

The university did not appoint a committee to tab a new full-time coach until late November. A month later, the search continues, and acting athletic director Dave Joyner has indicated nothing will be decided until after the bowl.

Certain Penn State players are a bit surprised that the search is taking so long.

“Just judging by other schools and past history with other coaches, it seems to be done very quickly,” redshirt junior fullback Michael Zordich said. “But at the same time, Penn State hasn't had to do this in 60 years. So it's a big deal. As a school in hiring, we're pretty much rookies in the game because we've never had to do it.”

Penn State's last coaching search was in 1950, when Rip Engle of Brown landed the job. Engle brought his former quarterback from Brown, a young Paterno, along as an assistant.

In 1966, Paterno replaced the retiring Engle. There was no search.

Needless to say, there was not quite as much media and fan scrutiny on the coaching search back in 1950. There has been so much discussion and so many rumors floating about the current search that the players can't help but notice.

“Oh yeah, it's everywhere,” Zordich said. “I'd be a fool to say it wasn't. I see it. I think about it. But I don't let it play too much of a role in where my mind is right now because I want to enjoy what is happening here (in Dallas). But yeah, I think about it all the time. I'd be lying if I said I didn't.”

Stankiewitch said it has been particularly difficult for the veteran players who have eligibility remaining. Both he and Zordich are academic seniors who have one season of eligibility left.

“Of course that's in the back of our heads because (2012) is our last year,” he explained. “… And we're planning on winning. We want to get that through to everyone in the Penn State community.”

Zordich hopes Bradley gets the job because, in his view, it would make for a more seamless transition. If the search committee looks elsewhere, he said, there will be a learning curve for all involved.

“Just to get a coach to understand what kind of player you are and what you're all about -- that whole process,” he said. “It's tough to do. But we've been through a lot. We can handle it.”

Zordich added that there is little discussion on the coaching search among the players simply because “there's been so much talk about what's going on that the guys on the squad are just kind of ready to talk about other things.” He tends to have more discussion on the matter with his family.

Zordich's father, also named Michael, is a former Nittany Lion who is now an assistant coach with the Philadelphia Eagles. But even on that front, the conversation is more light than serious, the younger Zordich said.

“It's gonna happen,” he said of the pending hire. “And little that we say is gonna have an effect on what the decision is.”


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