The numbers at the CBSSports.com Coaching Changes One-Stop Shop don't lie about the speed (or lack thereof) of the Penn State coaching search; 24 of this year's 25 coaching vacancies have been filled, and despite the Nittany Lions accepting the resignation of Joe Paterno with multiple games still remaining in the 2011 season, PSU is the only FBS program still without a permanent head coach.
Perhaps responding to that factoid (and the wave of hirings in the past 48 hours at places like Hawaii, Houston, Akron, and Pitt), Penn State acting athletic director Dave Joyner issued a statement Thursdayaddressing the progress of the search. Unfortunately for Nittany Lions fans, the statement won't do much to calm fears the new coach won't be in place anytime soon:
"As we head into the holidays, I wanted to share an update on the search for the next head football coach at Penn State. We are continuing to talk with individuals that we're interested in and work through the interview process. As I'm sure all can appreciate, this is a very important hire for Penn State and, as a result, the search committee is taking a very deliberate and measured approach to the process in order to identify the coach that best fits the requirements of the position."Working through the interview process" while "taking a very deliberate and measured approach" to hiring the next Nittany Lion head coach "at the appropriate time" certainly doesn't sound like the words of an administrator who feels confident he's going to have his new coach signed in the next few days.
"We look forward to introducing our new football coach at the appropriate time. In the interim, I'd like to wish everyone happy holidays as well as remind all Penn Staters to support our team and its 23 seniors as they compete against the 12-1 Houston Cougars in the TicketCity Bowl in Dallas on January 2nd."
Perhaps even more worrying for Penn State supporters is that even the rumor mill has slowed to a crawl where the Nittany Lions are concerned. After the flurry of initial (and apparently wayward) reports connecting Dan Mullen to Happy Valley, few serious names have emerged or been discussed as anything other than longshots. Patriot-News beat writer David Jones wrote earlier this week that in the course of covering the search, he's "learning more about guys who I believe won't be in the mix in the end than those who will be." With latest candidate du jour Bo Pelini denying any connection with the PSU job, Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach Tom Clements may be the de facto front-runner.
Hiring Clements, of course, might mean waiting until after the Packers play the Super Bowl to fill the Lion head coaching office. Joyner is right that the school's decision can't be rushed, and if the right choice is Clements or any other coach who either isn't available or who they haven't found yet, then it'll be worth the wait. (And there's little doubt that Joyner has difficulties facing him that aren't facing your typical coaching search.) But with Signing Day starting to peek over the horizon and the search looking more and more desperate as well as "deliberate", that introductory press conference still can't come soon enough for the Lions.