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Penn State football: Moving Past Paterno

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The current situation at Penn State is truly sad and tragic. We were all shocked by the revelations in the grand jury report involving long-time PSU assistant coach Jerry Sandusky and his 40-count sexual-abuse case. The fallout from this horrific criminal indictment has affected the entire university. The Penn State board of trustees voted unanimously to remove Joe Paterno — head football coach at PSU since 1966 — and school president Graham Spanier "effective immediately." The man who replaced Sandusky as defensive coordinator, Tom Bradley, has taken over as interim head coach. The Nittany Lions have a home game with Nebraska on Saturday in what will be a strange and surreal environment. Legal proceedings will dominate the news in Happy Valley for the foreseeable future, and Penn State will be in search of competent and trustworthy leadership for the school and the football program.

With Paterno gone, what's the future of Penn State football?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven
There’s no question it’s going to be a long healing process for Penn State. Rebuilding the image of the school and its athletic department is going to take years. And it’s not going to be an easy job. Focusing on the football aspect, this scandal is likely to have a significant impact on recruiting. And considering the overall shape of the athletic department, can the Nittany Lions lure a top coach to Happy Valley? My guess is they will still be able to land one of their top choices. Miami’s Al Golden is probably atop the coaching list, but there’s also a money factor involved with any candidate. How much is Penn State willing to pay? Adding even more uncertainty to the coaching hire is the situation with the athletic director. The Nittany Lions may not have that position filled in a full-time capacity when the next coach is hired. Considering that the coach may not know who the athletic director will be, it is cause for concern for anyone that is interested in taking the job. Shifting back to the present, Penn State still has a chance to win the Big Ten title. Can Tom Bradley rally the team? There are a lot of questions and no easy answers at this point.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman
First of all, I’m not sure that Penn State should be playing against Nebraska on Saturday or going to the postseason. After watching clueless students riot while cheering for Joe Paterno and screaming “Beat Nebraska”, some lessons need to be learned about priorities at PSU. Plus what did Tom Bradley know about Sandusky’s behavior, and are we sure he deserves to coach the team? What else was covered up? There are so many unanswered questions around that football complex. I do not want the current players to be punished, but some things are more important than football. As far as the future, former Nittany Lion player and current Miami coach Al Golden seems to make the most sense. He would be as motivated as anyone to clean up the school’s image. The new PSU leadership may want to go outside the Paterno family, for obvious reasons, and then names like Urban Meyer, Mike London, Kevin Sumlin and Pat Fitzgerald will be considered. Penn State needs a coach with a sterling reputation — which is what most of us mistakenly believed PSU had for 46 years.

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch
If I were making the decisions at Penn State, the first — and hopefully only — call I’d make would be to Al Golden, the current head coach at Miami. Golden played at Penn State from 1987-91 and served on the coaching staff in State College for one season (2000). He did a tremendous job as the head coach at Temple, turning the Owls into a consistent winner in the MAC, and he has done a commendable job in a difficult situation in his only season at Miami. In ideal circumstances, Golden might be reluctant to leave Miami — located in one of the most fertile recruiting areas in the nation — for Penn State, given the current climate in State College. But Miami is facing NCAA sanctions for violations that occurred prior to Golden’s arrival in Coral Gables. Penn State, obviously, has its own issues, but the school will not be penalized by the NCAA. Rebuilding the image of the university might take a few years, but it is still a better situation for a coach than what Miami is about to encounter. It’s not imperative that Penn State hire one of its own now, but Golden is a quality candidate who would likely be on the school’s short list even if he wasn’t a former player. This hire should be a slam dunk.

Nathan Rush
Despite the historically horrific week at Penn State, saddened fans in Happy Valley must celebrate Senior Day on Saturday in a critical contest against Nebraska at Beaver Stadium. If only for three or four hours, the Nittany Lions and their faithful can focus on the game between the lines rather than the tragic recent turn of events, which exposed Jerry Sandusky as the worst kind of monster and Joe Paterno as an enabler willing to look the other way. After this weekend's final home game of the season, PSU visits Ohio State and Wisconsin in tough road trips that will serve as needed respites from the chaos unleashed in central Pennsylvania. These final three games — and whatever bowl is unlucky enough to receive Penn State as a dirty Santa gift — are far less important than the healing and rebuilding process that will start with an extensive coaching search. State College must rally as a community. The Penn State football family needs a leader to step forward, take control and attempt to honestly achieve the "Success with Honor" aspiration that JoePa and Co. failed so miserably to live up to.