Big shoes to fill, vile mess to tiptoe through

Jerry DiPaola
| Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011

Finding a replacement for the winningest coach in NCAA Division I football will not be easy.

Aside from repairing its image from the child sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the football program, Penn State officials must search for a coach to replace Joe Paterno.

Whoever it is, winning games might be easier than dealing with the scandal's fallout.

"This is a stain that will not be washed away soon," said Dennis Dodd, a college football analyst for "They are going to have to get somebody who is squeaky clean."

The job could still be attractive to the right person who is willing to gamble that recruits will forget the transgressions of the past staff and feel that Penn State is still a place that can produce quality teams and players.

Here are some candidates who may be considered:

Urban Meyer, 47

Job: ESPN analyst

Resume: Rumored to be near the top of Penn State's list of successors. He has denied speaking to anyone at the university about the football job. Even if he did, those people probably will be gone by the time the school gets around to hiring someone. Meyer led the University of Florida to two national championships before retiring after the 2010 season. His final game as Gators coach was a 37-24 victory against Penn State in the Outback Bowl.

Pat Fitzgerald, 36

Job: Northwestern head coach

Resume: Fitzgerald's profile could be what Penn State is seeking. Fitzgerald serves on the American Football Coaches Association Ethics Committee. He was one of the best linebackers in college football of his era. In six seasons as Wildcats coach, Fitzgerald has a 38-34 record, with bowl berths in each of the past three seasons.

Al Golden, 42

Job: Miami (Fla.) head coach

Resume: A former Penn State team captain and tight end from 1987-91, Golden was Paterno's linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator in 2000 before going to the University of Virginia as defensive coordinator. He is in his first year at Miami after resurrecting a Temple program many considered dead. He finished 27-33 in five seasons with the Owls. He could be interested, as the Hurricanes face NCAA sanctions.

Greg Schiano, 45

Job: Rutgers head coach

Resume: The longest-tenured coach in the Big East Conference, Schiano rebuilt Rutgers' program, winning 11 games in 2006 for the first time in 30 years. In 11 seasons at Rutgers, Schiano has a losing record (65-66) but is heralded as a strong defensive coach. He served as Paterno's secondary coach from 1990-96. He also has coached with the Chicago Bears and was Miami's defensive coordinator for two years.

Bill Cowher, 54

Job: CBS NFL analyst

Resume: If he is interested and doesn't mind the rigors of recruiting -- something he never has done -- Cowher could be a good choice. He won a Super Bowl as Steelers head coach. He has a reputation as a strong defensive coach, the ability to assemble and operate a football program and a name that would attract recruits. Penn State would have a tough sell, as NFL coaching jobs have not lured him from the set of CBS' "NFL Today."

Tom Bradley, 55

Job: Penn State interim head coach

Resume: Once considered among Paterno's possible successors, Bradley was the victim of time and Paterno's refusal to retire before yesterday. He remains one of college football's most respected defensive minds and recruiters. He has interviewed for head jobs at other institutions -- including Pitt earlier this year -- but during the past 33 years, he never has worked anywhere but Penn State. His challenge will be convincing the school to hire a current member of Paterno's staff.

Chris Petersen, 47

Job: Boise State head coach

Resume: Petersen's name pops up on most lists when college coaching jobs open. He has won 69 of 74 games since 2006 and reached the brink of the BCS Championship Game with unbeaten teams in '06 and '09. His program was cited for minor NCAA violations this year.

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