I’m just catching up with Penn State football news after having been out of commission for a while, so please bear with me if my ruminations reflect the obvious, which is that the Nittany Lions are clearly in need of leadership both on and off the field, and as more time passes before a new head of the football program is selected, the worse things will get. Last week Dave Joyner promised results from his search committee within thirty days, pushing it out until the conclusion of the bowl season.
The present lack of leadership has fostered undisciplined behavior among the team. For example, recently, a locker room scuffle between Curtis Drake and Matt McGloin following a dust-up (“dey had words”) at practice probably would not have happened were it not for the vacancy at the top. Players now seem to feel as if they can do what they please. If our deposed legend had been in charge, those two might have thought before they acted. Lesser transgressions caused bowl suspensions in the Joseph V. Paterno Era. No one is handing out suspensions at the moment.
So, Drake beat the shit out of McGloin, causing the Irish kid a concussion and a seizure. No doubt there were enough flies on the wall at practice and in the locker room that we’ll know eventually what the words between them were. McGloin is well known for his cocky attitude and perhaps Drake had just a little too much of it. However, no matter what the genesis of this unseemly event, this kind of crap stems from the waywardness of the program.
“Penn State doesn’t appear to know if it wants to try to remain a national power or de-emphasize football. Good luck trying to do both.” —Ron Cook, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Nittany Lions need a new head coach — and fast!
We’ve already lost three top recruits. The most recent of these is Tommy Schutt, a twenty-seven star (you know how I feel about those star ratings) defensive lineman from Illinois who de-committed from Penn State in favor of the Urban Renewal team in a neighboring state. “With everything that happened at Penn State, I really felt like I needed to look at my situation,” Schutt told the Daily Herald of Chicago, “I’ve always liked Ohio State and just felt comfortable there on my visit.”
Bob Flounders of the Patriot-News thinks that this is just the beginning. Why would anyone want to play for a leaderless program carrying the heavy baggage the Nittany Lions do? They have no idea what the coaching style will be, no clue whether anarchy will continue to rend the players asunder, and not the foggiest notion of whether Penn State football will go the way of Indiana University — except that Penn State doesn’t even have a basketball team that can redeem it. To be a football power once again? To be an academic power with football de-emphasized? Or for that ultimate pie in the sky, the “Grand Experiment” continuation with a candidate with strong credentials in both areas. Does such a person even exist?
Dave Joyner and his search committee seem to be dragging their feet. What are they waiting for? As Neil Rudel of the Altoona Mirror suggests, perhaps the leading candidates are in the NFL, such as Mike Munchak (who just took over the helm at the Tennessee Titans this year) or Jim Caldwell (who desperately needs to be rescued from Manninglessness but probably wouldn’t be considered by anybody for anything owing to his abysmal 0-13 record with the Colts this year — this just in: they beat Munchak’s Titans today). Many high profile college coaches have already moved to their new destinations. Who is left? Would Pat Fitzgerald or Al Golden seriously consider heading up the PSU program? I suppose we’ll find out sooner or later, but the later it gets, the more speculation it will cause among the fans and, of course, the media; the more uncertainty it will cause among recruits; and the more frustration it will cause for existing team members.
Hey, ya gotta feel for those guys. It wasn’t their fault that Jerry Sandusky did what he did — whatever that was, in view of McQueary’s 19 versions of his story — and it wasn’t their fault that the Paterno/Spanier cover-up took place. Their 9-3 season was rewarded by a trip to the TicketCity.com booby prize bowl instead of a Florida game, which pissed them off. They look toward the future not knowing which end of the team is up or who will be playing on it. So, why not take their frustrations out on each other, smashing someone’s head into a locker or breaking some “minor” laws?
To add insult to injury, I hear that Rob Bolden has some “minor legal problems”. Who is going to quarterback the Lions in the TicketCity.com bowl, Shane McGregor? Hey, TicketCity.com, how about that for TV ratings? Being on ESPNU is bad enough without having the few people who found that cable channel being driven away by a third-stringer.
Does Joyner’s committee comprehend what kind of a person it is searching for? A competent football guy? A scholar with pristine academic standards and scruples? A disciplinarian? All three wrapped up in one neat package? Penn State is ideally seeking to replace a legend with another legend, and that just isn’t possible. Fuhgeddaboudit! Ron Cook of the Post-Gazette says, “Penn State doesn’t appear to know if it wants to try to remain a national power or de-emphasize football. Good luck trying to do both.”
In The Republic, Plato employed the leaderless ship metaphor to describe the political state of Athens at the time. Those who were qualified and capable, the philosophers, eschewed leadership roles, while those driven by power hungry incompetence took over the helm. After a half century of Paterno, how will this ship of State handle a new captain? Joyner and Company must hire a very strong, competent leader very, very soon in order to avert an inmate takeover of the asylum, with negative implications for the future.
Are you feeling confident in Joyner’s search committee? Are you optimistic about Penn State’s football future? Or, on the contrary, do you fear that much like the early 2000’s, the program is facing another set of “Dark Years”, this one more protracted? Please share your thoughts.