Just when it appears that things can’t possibly get any more bizarre surrounding the Penn State sex scandal, they do.
This week’s bizarre turn came on Tuesday, when former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky waived his preliminary hearing at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte.
In the meantime, the Penn State football team continues to prepare for the TicketCity Bowl on Jan. 2. In today’s edition of Morelli OnLion, we’ll take a closer look at Penn State’s bowl game and the search for a new coach.
Let’s start with the bowl game.
That’s the Ticket
Last week, Penn State formally accepted a bid to play the Houston Cougars on Jan. 2 in the TicketCity Bowl in Dallas. All around Nittany Nation, fans and players reacted negatively. After all, many said, the Nittany Lions finished the season at 9-3, although they lost two of three to close out the year.
Did the Lions deserve to drop all the way to the TicketCity Bowl? Well, it certainly seems about right.
Actually, the Lions probably don’t deserve to go to a bowl game at all. There is still a very large, dark cloud hovering above the Nittany Lion football program. By heading to the TicketCity Bowl, the Lions will garner a lot of unwanted media coverage. Of course, it’s Penn State’s first bowl game in the post-Joe Paterno Era, so they’d get coverage whether or not they went to the Outback Bowl, the TicketCity Bowl or Meineke Car Care Bowl.
Penn State has announced that it will be donating $1.5 million of the bowl proceeds to a pair of sex-crime advocacy organizations in the wake of the scandal. In an interview with the Associated Press, Penn State president Rodney Erickson said that the Big Ten bowl revenue, which usually goes back to the athletic department will instead go to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
Let’s face it – Penn State had to reach out to those groups, especially considering that the administration chose to go to a bowl. Personally, I think Penn State should have sat this one out, especially when you consider the circumstances surrounding this season.
There’s very little good that can come out of this bowl game. The Nittany Lions are overmatched against the 12-1 Houston Cougars. They’re led by a stud, Case Keenum, at quarterback. Considering that the Lions are coming off a 45-7 loss at Wisconsin in the final week of the season speaks volumes. This team is simply not focused enough for a bowl game.
The Lions, quite simply, should’ve stayed home for the new year.
As we head toward the Christmas holiday, Penn State’s search for a new head football coach continues. Once considered one of the best coaching jobs in the country, that’s no longer the case.
After former coach Joe Paterno was fired for his much-reported failings when it came to his former defensive coordinator Jerrry Sandusky, then-defensive coordinator Tom Bradley took over as interim coach.
Since that time, we’ve heard some names through the grapevine, but nothing concrete. It has been confirmed that quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno had a formal interview, and it’s expected that Bradley will be given one, too.
Other than that, there aren’t too many names coming up on the radar. Following the scandal, Miami locked up Al Golden with a long-term contract. Greg Schiano said that he’s happy at Rutgers. A couple of the Big Ten’s best – Kirk Ferentz and Pat Fitzgerald – probably won’t leave their jobs at Iowa and Northwestern, respectively.
Some big names have been tossed around by the media. Obviously, coaches like Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden and Tony Dungy would be a great fit and would certainly get the Lions back on the right track. Another name that has come up is Jim Caldwell, should he be fired at the end of the season by the Indianapolis Colts. He has Penn State ties. The Green Bay Packers’ Darren Perry and Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak are two more names that have trickled through the grapevine.
It says here, though, that the Penn State administration is clearly looking for someone with no ties to Penn State. If they don’t hire Bradley, expect the unexpected. They’re probably not going to get a big name at this point, and with Urban Meyer off the board, there aren’t many big names worthy of a big paycheck out there.
One thing that isn’t on Penn State’s side is time. If a hire isn’t made by around Dec. 20, then the hire will almost certainly have to wait until after the bowl game. With signing day right around the corner, the Lions will have to get the coach in place and make sure he secures the recruits still left on the board.
Make no mistake about it — this scandal will have repercussions for years to come.
Chris Morelli is an award-winning writer/editor who lives in Centre County and covers Penn State athletics for gantdaily.com. He’s also a regular on “Sports Central,” which airs on ESPN Radio in Altoona and State College. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, be sure to check out Morelli OnLion on Facebook!