Skip to main content

Dan Mullen Leads Coaching Candidates at Penn State


The search for the next Penn State head coach took an interesting turn over the weekend with the news that current Miami coach and former PSU player Al Golden signed a new four-year contract extension that stretches to February 2020. So where will the Nittany Lions turn now as they try to move away from the Jerry Sandusky sexual-abuse scandal and the subsequent firing of Joe Paterno? Many around college football believe that Penn State will stay away from candidates with Paterno ties, but that may not be the case in the end. Interim coach Tom Bradley will get consideration, as will several coaches with PSU or state of Pennsylvania connections such as Rutgers’ Greg Schiano, Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen and Vanderbilt’s James Franklin. Other top candidates will include Virginia’s Mike London, Iowa State’s Paul Rhoads, Houston’s Kevin Sumlin and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz. The Big Ten’s Leaders division has had a year of scandals, and next season will look much different with new leadership at Ohio State (Urban Meyer), Penn State and Illinois.

Who is your favorite to be Penn State's next coach?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven
Until Al Golden signed his extension at Miami, I thought he had to be candidate No. 1. Now it appears to be a wide-open race. Interim coach Tom Bradley seems to have a decent shot of keeping the full-time gig, but I think the one to watch is Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen. Although he’s raised the bar in Starkville, how much higher can he take the program in a brutal SEC West? Mullen may seem like a strange fit at first, but he is a Pennsylvania native and went to college in the state at Ursinus. If Penn State is willing to pay, Mullen would be a great hire. Outside of Mullen, not many names are jumping out as frontrunners for the job. The Nittany Lions would also be wise to take a look at Iowa State’s Paul Rhoads, who I think is one of the most underrated coaches in college football.

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden
Since the contracts coaches and universities sign aren't really worth paper they are printed on, I would not be entirely shocked to see Al Golden coaching in Happy Valley next season. However, after some of that tricky "coach speak" with a reporter last week, all signs point to the Penn State alum staying in Coral Gables. And Greg Schiano recently told Sirius XM Radio that the only job he is interested in is Rutgers. That leaves Tom Bradley, Dan Mullen, Mike London, Kevin Sumlin, Kirk Ferentz and others as possible choices. Mullen appears to be the most ready and with deep ties to the Keystone State, would be a perfect fit in the region. He also removes himself from the brutal SEC West battleground and gets the opportunity to duke it out with mentor Urban Meyer every season in the Leaders Division. It may be too early to predict, but I will go with the Drexel Hill, Pa., native and Ursinus (Pa.) College grad to be coaching in State College next fall.

Nathan Rush
There is no clear-cut "favorite" for the next Penn State coach, in terms of an obvious hire who will certainly take the job — like Urban Meyer to Ohio State, for example. There are several good coaches with ties to Linebacker U., the question is whether any will take the job following the Jerry Sandusky scandal and subsequent Joe Paterno firing? Miami coach Al Golden would be my top choice; but the former Penn State tight end just signed a four-year contract extension at the U. The best realistic candidate is Rutgers' Greg Schiano, a former Penn State assistant who has long been rumored to be JoePa's successor. Schiano has lost some luster of late and is no longer the red-hot national candidate he once was; but he is a proven commodity whose recruiting ties in New Jersey would be a natural fit at PSU. A flashier hire would be Mississippi State's Dan Mullen, who was born in Pennsylvania and would have a better chance to contend for a BCS bowl in the Big Ten than the SEC West. If the Nittany Lions take a few public rejections, they may fall back on a safety-net option like Connecticut's Paul Pasqualoni, a former Penn State linebacker who would certainly say "yes" if asked to be PSU's next coach. Oddly enough, Pasqualoni's long facial features and white hair resemble those of Sandusky a little too much for him to be the next head coach; but he'd be a perfect top assistant for a less-proven, younger hire. A longshot to keep in mind would be Delaware's K.C. Keeler, a Keystone State native who has led the Blue Hens to three FCS national title games since 2002.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman
I think it comes down to Dan Mullen or Mike London, with a slight edge to Mullen. Besides playing college ball in Pennsylvania and his father graduating from Penn State, Mullen has quickly changed the program at Mississippi State. The Bulldogs won nine games in his second year, including destroying Michigan in the Gator Bowl. MSU has six losses this season, but five of those were to teams in the Top 15 in the nation. Mullen was an assistant for very successful teams at Florida and Utah, and he would be a great fit in Happy Valley if Penn State will pay the freight to get him to leave Starkville. London’s name is also one to keep in mind, as he has engineered eight wins at Virginia this season. He won a FCS national title at Richmond and would be a solid choice for PSU as well.