Penn State interim coach Tom Bradley planned to hit the recruiting trail this week upon returning from a lost trip to Texas knowing full well his itinerary may change at any minute.
Nearly two months after Joe Paterno was fired, the school still hasn’t settled on a permanent replacement.
“I’m going to work until the very end until they tell me I’m no longer needed,” Bradley said Monday. “That’s what Penn State is paying me to do and what is in my heart that I am going to do. Because I love this university and I love the people.”
Bradley and most of the rest of the Penn State contingent in Dallas were scheduled to return to Happy Valley on Tuesday, a day following a 30-14 loss to No. 20 Houston at the TicketCity Bowl in Dallas.
The dispiriting defeat capped a tumultuous two months that began with child sex abuse charges against retired assistant coach Jerry Sandusky and the ouster of Paterno in the scandal’s aftermath.
Receivers coach Mike McQueary, a key witness in the state attorney general’s case against Sandusky, is also on administrative leave. Most of the rest of the staff, including Bradley, have worked with Paterno for years — if not decades.
Bradley and defensive line coach Larry Johnson are among the candidates who have been interviewed in a search that could end in the next few weeks. Mike Harrison, the agent for San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, said Monday that Roman interviewed in November and is on the “short list” for the job.
Acting athletic director David Joyner said Sunday there was no one who could be classified as a leading candidate for the position in what the school has described as a “deliberate search.” Paterno, Division I’s winningest coach with 409 victories, had been the Nittany Lions’ leader for 46 seasons.
Joyner hopes to give the next coach at least a few weeks to recruit before high school seniors can officially announce their college choices starting Feb. 1. As they await their fates, the current coaches plan to recruit until they’re told otherwise.
“I don’t know if it’s the end of an era for Penn state football, but it feels like it’s a change,” Johnson said. “We know that a change is finally going to come, and that’s tough to say — that a change is finally going to get here.”
Players have said they have grown closer amid the media scrutiny on a scandal in which athletes had no connections.
A positive for the next coaching regime is that it appears Penn State’s top juniors and sophomores plan to return. Sophomore Silas Redd, who ran for more than 1,200 yards and seven touchdowns in his first year as the featured tailback, has said he pondered his future with his family and coaches in the week after charges were initially filed before settling on staying committed to Penn State by the Nebraska game Nov. 12.
“It would be silly of me to up and leave and sit out a year,” Redd said Saturday, “and I wasn’t willing to do that.”
Leading tackler Gerald Hodges, who emerged as a speedy playmaker in his first year as a full-time starter at linebacker, has submitted his name to an NFL draft advisory board, but plans to return. Hodges said he wanted an evaluation for precautionary reasons, but cemented his plans after talking to his parents during Christmas break.
“Not a chance at all,” the junior said when asked if he would leave. “I have a semester-and-a-half left to graduate. I’m not in any rush.”
Linebacker should be the strength of the defense next season with Hodges and middle linebacker Glenn Carson returning, along with the expected return of standout Michael Mauti from a season-ending left knee injury.
Jordan Hill, a junior who formed one-half of the standout defensive tackle tandem with All-American Devon Still, appears to be leaning to return but has said he would also like an evaluation about his potential draft prospects.
“I’ll definitely talk to (my teammates). I’ve got close friends on this team and they’ll definitely play a factor,” Hill said. “I want to come back, but you just can’t say there’s a guarantee for anything. I don’t want to base my decision on anybody else. I want to do what’s best for myself.”
And Penn State even has some good news on the recruiting trail, securing its first verbal commitment since charges were first filed against Sandusky early November. Sandusky is awaiting trial after pleading not guilty last month.
While three recruits have reportedly taken back their verbal commitments, two-way linemen Jamil Pollard of West Deptford (N.J.) High announced at an all-star game in Arlington, Texas last week that he was planning to attend Penn State. Pollard had a scholarship offer from Penn State last summer before it was revoked for academic reasons.
“Penn State is going to be Penn State no matter what. One coach or one player is not going to change things,” he told the Courier-Post of Camden, N.J. last week. “You buy into the school, not a coach.”