Depending on your point of view, Penn State either dodged a bullet or missed a great opportunity to turn the page forward Wednesday when Temple decided not to hire Tom Bradley as its new head coach.
For about two hours in the early afternoon, the future of the Nittany Lion football program rested heavily on what Temple would do. Bradley's name surfaced as one of three finalists for the job, along with Florida offensive coordinator Steve Addazio and former Notre Dame coach Bob Davie.
Temple hired Addazio, which is odd for several reasons. He has no ties to the school, he appeared to be heading to Texas as the offensive line coach and his name was mud among Gator fans because the team's offense was lousy for much of the season.
Had the Owls selected Bradley, it could have been the first domino to fall that ultimately would have led to the end of the Joe Paterno era.
That might sound like a stretch, but hear me out.
Published reports indicated Bradley may have taken PSU linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden and receivers coach Mike McQueary with him to Temple. That kind of mass defection of three of the best coaches on the staff would have crippled the Lions.
Can you imagine Paterno going out trying to convince assistant coaches to come to PSU given the enormous uncertainty surrounding his health and future? He doesn't want to be bothered with recruiting players anymore, so there's no reason to believe he would have the energy or patience to find adequate replacements, especially for Bradley and Vanderlinden.
What qualified coach would leave whatever job he's at or turn down other good opportunities to come to Penn State for one season, possibly even less if JoePa's health takes a turn for the worse and the program is forced to hire a new coach before next fall?
The assistants already are doing most of the work for the football team, and losing those three in particular would wreak havoc on the program and possibly devastate recruiting. You've got Paterno's right-hand man on the sideline in McQueary, the guy calling the shots on defense in Bradley and the coach who helped restore the "Linebacker U" distinction in Vanderlinden.
Seeing them depart -- and given Paterno's health problems -- may have been enough for president Graham Spanier to step in and say enough is enough and either ease or force JoePa out.
That's exactly what many Penn State fans want to see happen.
The groundswell of support for a change is higher now than at any time except the end of the 2004 season. The program is stale both on the field and off, and the prospect of losing Bradley and other key assistants may have been too much for Paterno to overcome.
On the flipside, the JoePa supporters who want to see him return next season can rejoice that Bradley and company aren't going anywhere -- for now at least. Paterno has a staff in place that he trusts, and if he can keep it together for one more year, perhaps the Lions could catch lightning in a bottle.
Call it wishful thinking if you'd like, but aside from Alabama in week two, next year's schedule is set up nicely for a strong start the first nine games. Of course, the season will be judged on the final three games against powers Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin.
One can't help but feel disappointed and maybe even sad for Bradley, a great guy who has bled blue and white his entire adult life. He clearly sees the writing on the wall that he will not get the job when JoePa retires, or else he wouldn't have been in the running for the Pitt and Temple openings.
The fact that he got neither is troubling. Pitt seemed like a good fit because of his western PA ties, and Temple was a good fit because that school traditionally has had Penn State ties.
What's next for Bradley? He may try to get involved in another opening this offseason, but it seems likely he'll be back for another year of the same old, same old at PSU. Then when JoePa does decide to retire, he'll be back out in the marketplace looking for a job.
As for Paterno, rumors have been running rampant recently about all sorts of murky issues. I'm not going to dignify any specific rumors because at this point all are unsubstantiated hearsay, but the gist is that some people are certain the Outback Bowl will be his final game because of his deteriorating health.
Speculation reached the point that Spanier's spokesman, Bill Mahon, was asked to address the rumors Wednesday.
"None of this has any factual basis," Mahon told The Associated Press. "There have been no discussions whatsoever" about Paterno retiring after the bowl game.
That's good news to some, bad to others. Decide for yourself where you fall.
Cory Giger is the host of "Sports Central" from 4 to 6 p.m. daily on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM. He can be reached at 949-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.