The great irony of the Outback Bowl is that one sideline will be coached by Urban Meyer, the poster child for the toll modern major college football coaching takes on those in the field, and the other by Joe Paterno, the indestructible symbol of the profession as it used to be in the days of 25-year tenures and mavericks whose name would wind up on the side of the stadium. The rumors about JoePa's health, ability to coach, and recruiting impact on his beloved Nittany Lion program have been around longer than Meyer's entire FBS head-coaching career. The contrast is staggering.
But even Paterno, 84 years young this week , is human. So the rumors have been beginning to curdle again, and they gained perhaps some measure of legitimacy in this report from the Patriot News on Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley's (now unsuccessful) candidacy for the Temple head coaching position. David Jones writes (emphasis added):
It has been increasingly difficult for PSU assistants to recruit around the age and apparent declining health of head coach Joe Paterno who turned 84 yesterday. Though Paterno has insisted he will coach next season, those surrounding the program have become increasingly skeptical that can happen .As Jones writes, that Bradley was fully committed to taking the Temple position indicates that he is not -- as has been widely believed in some quarters -- the man in line to succeed Paterno if and when he retires.
But as the closest thing to a "right-hand man" on Paterno's staff (where Bradley has coached since 1979 ), he is nonetheless a key figure in Penn State's future going forward. As Paterno is less and less able to handle his full complement of head coaching duties, more and more of those will have to be handled by Bradley and the other PSU assistants. And not only could Bradley not have performed those (obviously) as the head coach at Temple, Jones reports that he could have taken multiple other Nittany Lion assistants with him. If there's a worst-case scenario for Penn State beyond a sudden Paterno retirement for health-related reasons, it's a a sudden Paterno retirement for health-related reasons without Bradley or a handful of other PSU assistants on hand to help keep things afloat.
So the Owls opting for Steve Addazio over Bradley might be a bullet dodged for Penn State. There's still some issues to be addressed -- the questions about JoePa are already having a serious detrimental impact on PSU's recruiting, and assistants like Bradley looking ready to bolt won't help matters -- but Temple's decision gives PSU at least one anchor that won't have to be pulled up right away.