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What happened to hiring the best available?


January 8, 2014
By Philip Cmor ( , The Altoona Mirror

There are a lot of things Penn State needs to take into consideration when hiring its new football coach.

Whether that coach might jump to another job in a couple of years shouldn't be high on the list.

Bill O'Brien's abrupt departure for the NFL seems to have left a lot of Nittany Lion followers gun-shy about bringing on another coach that might have aspirations from within or interest from without about trying the pros eventually. The fact that the school had the same coach for the previous 40 years only has reinforced that notion.

However, what Penn State needs to do is to hire the person they feel is best for the job and then cross those other bridges when they come to them.

Stability in and of itself isn't always a virtue. A team can be consistently mediocre or consistently slightly above average. Would Penn State rather be Iowa-level and know who its coach is going to be, or would Lion fans rather be competing with Ohio State for Big Ten championships? Hey, Iowa has stability.

If Penn State really wants to consider itself elite, it needs to have that swagger that it feels it can hire a guy other programs would want and then make that coach want to stay. Penn State has a lot going for it: great academics with a large alumni network, crowds routinely near 100,000, facilities few other colleges can match and a built-in recruiting base fortified by decades of successful teams.

If they'd stop dragging their feet on replacing a perpetual interim president and deciding what to do with athletic director, they'd be in terrific shape. Do that, take care of the new coach and his assistants finacially, there's a lot to make an ambitious coach think twice about leaving, even if it's someone with no Penn State ties like James Franklin or Greg Roman.

That's not saying Franklin and Roman are necessarily the guys they should look toward. Honestly, you could throw all of the perceived top four candidates in a hat and do very well, possibly better than with O'Brien. Sure, Mike Munchak hasn't coached in college and Larry Johnson has been an assistant at Penn State forever, but both have strengths to more than offset those issues. NFL coaches have a great track record when moving down to college, and Munchak has that cache - he should be able to find a few assistants to get him up to speed on recruiting. Johnson, meanwhile, has plenty of connections in players he's coached, men he's coached against and the recruiting circles to find a suitable offensive coordinator.

And I'm still not sure Al Golden, despite what's been said, is out of the question.

The point is, if Golden is who it deems the best fit, Penn State should go all in for him. Same for any of the others. Welcome the fact that you are getting a guy other people are going to want, and find a way to keep him, just like Alabama can do with Nick Saban and just like Penn State did with Joe Paterno in the 1970s.

A lot of times people are held back by fear of failure. Let's hope this isn't one of the few times someone is held back by a fear of success.

Cmor can be reached at 946-7440 and

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