Penn State to face Georgia in TaxSlayer Bowl on Jan. 2
Georgia isn't the only team with an interim coach preparing for the TaxSlayer Bowl on Jan. 2 at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla.
Bryan McClendon is the Bulldogs' temporary head coach. Ricky Rahne, Penn State's quarterbacks coach, is the Nittany Lions' interim offensive coordinator.
“At this point, (Rahne) is fulfilling those responsibilities on our staff,” coach James Franklin said during a conference call after the bowl pairing was announced Sunday.
A week earlier, the day after Penn State ended its 7-5 season with a 55-16 loss to Michigan State, Franklin fired John Donovan, his offensive coordinator during his two seasons with the Nittany Lions and three at Vanderbilt.
Franklin said he hopes to have the position filled “in the next week and a half or two weeks or so,” adding the opening is drawing considerable interest.
“I've had a list for a while,” he said. “But then, as you can imagine when you have a position open like this, there's a lot of people who become available you didn't know would become available.”
Franklin said Rahne, who will continue as coordinator through the bowl game, is not a candidate.
“I've got a lot of respect for Coach Rahne,” he said. “He's an up-and-coming young coach. I've been with him for a long time. He has a tremendous career ahead of him.
“But at this point, I think the best interest for our players and the program is to hire a guy who's been calling plays, a guy who has been successful for a number of years. Whether that's a guy from the NFL or from major college football or a head coach, the most important thing is to find somebody that's gonna be a great fit.”
McClendon, Georgia's receivers coach and former assistant head coach, is looking at a one-game stint in a new post. Georgia fired coach Mark Richt after 15 seasons, two SEC championships and 145 wins, second most in school history behind Vince Dooley.
Richt said he would stay with his team through the bowl game but then took the vacant Miami (Fla.) job. His replacement, Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, is staying with the Crimson Tide through the College Football Playoff.
McClendon is the son of former Georgia and Chicago Bears running back Willie McClendon, the SEC Player of the Year in 1978.
“It's definitely been a little different,” Bryan McClendon said about the eventful week. “The one thing that hasn't been different is, it's about the players. You try to do everything you can to make sure those guys are OK.”
Georgia won its last four games and finished 9-3, but losses to Alabama, Tennessee and Florida hastened Richt's departure. The Bulldogs were picked to win the SEC East.
The teams have met once, but the game was a classic. After the 1982 regular season, second-ranked Penn State beat then-No. 1 Georgia, 27-23, in the Sugar Bowl to give Joe Paterno his first national title.
This is Penn State's fifth appearance in what was known as the Gator Bowl until 2014. The Lions played in four of those games, the last in 1976, a 20-9 loss to Notre Dame.
Note: Tickets are priced at $60 (stadium seats), $85 (VIP) and $125 (Club). Log on to taxslayerbowl.com/tickets/ for details.