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Thursday, December 01, 2011

A Vote for Tony Dungy as Penn State's Next Football Coach

It's pretty simple, really.

Urban Meyer?

To Ohio State.

Philadelphia-area native Dan Mullen, the Mississippi State coach (and former Meyer assistant)?

Not interested.

Al Golden?

Signed a longer-term deal at Miami, perhaps opting to stay with a more manageable crisis situation.

Truth be told, Penn State needs a Mr. Clean. Or so that's the perception. Well, DI football, as currently constituted, requires coaches to be aggressive. And that might mean ignoring bad behavior (Jim Tressel), raising money from boosters and being ignorant of bad behavior (perhaps Randy Shannon and Pete Carroll) or embarking upon some recruiting techniques that might push the envelope. That is not to say that all coaches out there are bad actors. But it is to say that whoever Penn State -- the school that has put itself out there as holier than holy -- chooses -- will be subject to great scrutiny.

Scrutiny that turns blemishes into Stage 4 melanoma under the media spotlight quickly. Scrutiny that might have most stakeholders holding the coach to a higher standard than they hold themselves? Pinch a secretary's butt once twenty years ago? Done. Text the #1 recruit in the land 5 times 2 hours before it was permissible to do so, thereby drawing a sanction? You're out. Or something like that.

Which brings me to the most revered man in recent years in football coaching -- Tony Dungy, a man who has won, a man who looks very comfortable in his own skin, a man who has mentored many, including, most notably, Michael Vick. A man who coached in the NFL for so long that he won't have the possible baggage of transgressions while having coached in college. A man who just might have one more gig left in him and who might relish the challenge of helping heal the Penn State community. Tony Dungy would attract top-notch assistants, at least 2-3 of whom, under his mentoring (for coaching, recruiting and good conduct) could grow into successors when he and the powers that be in State College believe that they have done much to help restore Penn State's brand.

Many of the current coaches whose names are bandied about are probably scared. If they're successful, they probably have a very good gig, one where they aren't under a constant microscope for the types of things that any coach in State College now will be. At one point, it would have been an honor to survive the scrutiny to be tapped to succeed Joe Paterno (even if frightening that the comparisons to him would have been harsh). Now, it's not so much an honor as a burden -- a burden of proving what Paterno preached but ultimately failed to live up to -- that he and his program were better than all others when it came to doing the right thing -- playing hard and fair, graduating players, behaving well. That would be a tough set of standards to meet, one that might rival the requirements for canonization.

I don't want to equate Tony Dungy with sainthood, as that's not fair to anyone. But he's a terrific guy with a great track record, someone who is as respected -- if not more respected -- than anyone out there who might be available to coach Penn State. And while he might be comfortably retired and enjoying his TV work, this could be the one challenge that might interest him enough to come back to the sidelines -- to help heal a once-sacred community and set standards of excellence in actions and not, sadly, in just words.

This could be a great match.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It might seem counterintuitive but Penn State does not need to hire a new coach who comes with an impeccable record of rectitude, as I agree Dungy does.

What is unfolding in Happy Valley is SO reprehensible, SO beyond the pale, that once every last member of the old staff is cleared out (and they will be), the new guy will operate with very little ongoing baggage.

It's counterintutive because if the Penn State scandal had involved recruiting violations on a grand scale then, yes, the school would need to hire a new guy who came in as pure as the driven snow. He would need to keep to the straight and narrow in all recruiting aspects for a long, long time.

But as much as Penn State as a university will be very seriously damaged as an educational enterprise, it can actually move on rather quickly and easily from a football perspective precisely because the charges are so jarring and disturbing (and of course, not directly related to football).

The new guy will have no problem moving on. I wouldn't be surprised if the new coach puts a winner on the field immediately even as Penn State confronts a variety of larger problems, such as fewer applications from high school students and lower rankings in national publications, etc.

5:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said SportsProf, thank you

I had heard that Tony Dungy was being considered by Graham Spanier and the Board last summer as a candidate to take over when Joe Paterno retired. I had heard that he visited State College last August. I think he would arguably eclipse Urban Meyer as far as star power in the Big Ten coaching ranks if he were to be offered the Penn State coaching job.

-He certainly has the integrity we need at this critical time
-He could help restore and possibly even elevate the honorable traditions we embrace
-His wife is from Pennsylvania
-He graduated from a Big Ten University... Minnesota
-As we all know, he coached the Indianapolis Colts (a Big Ten market) to win a Super Bowl and led the team to ten straight playoff appearances
-He played on the Pittsburgh Steelers 1977 Super Bowl winning team
-He made his debut as a Defensive Backs Coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers (a huge Penn State recruiting market)
-He has 14 years Defensive Coordinator experience in the NFL, always a hallmark of our Penn State teams

Four of Tony Dungy's former Assistant coaches are currently NFL Head Coaches in Big Ten Football markets (great for Penn State recruiting)
- Lovie Smith - Chicago Bears
- Mike Tomlin - Pittsburgh Steelers
- Jim Caldwell - Indianapolis Colts
- Leslie Frazier - Minnesota Vikings

Tony Dungy was ranked 15th out of 900 actors, musicians and sports celebrities for overall appeal by the Independent Celebrity Ratings Association in 2011.

He could continue to cultivate an amazing culture of student and coaching development.

His Quiet Strength could be great for our beloved Penn State University and could potentially take us to even greater Success with Honor.

2:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill Cowher. Tremendous success at Pittsburgh. A household name in Pennsylvania. A no-nonsense guy who would command respect among the players. A man who values education with two daughters who went to Princeton.

8:33 AM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Thanks, everyone.

Dungy seems to be the preeminent choice. Cowher is intriguing, too. Look, despite the scandal, there is a lot to recommend Penn State. I think that the school will choose carefully, opting for an icon if it can land one than for an up-and-comer.

7:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dungy seems like a great selection if he wants to coach.

Cowher has much more of a heardass reputation, which may not fit as well. And why would he come out of retirement? He left at his peak, with no pressure from the Steelers, without facing the personal problems that Dungy was facing (Dungy's son dying).

Does Dungy want to do this?

5:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A hard-ass who will keep the players on the straight-and-now both as citizens and students is what they need. Cowher had his own heartache with the passing of his wife.

5:25 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Thanks again, for your comments.

I am not sure that the program needs a hardass. It might have during a ten-year period where too many players made the headlines for outside activities and especially during the time when apparently Coach Paterno tried to intervene for players after a vicious assault and battery allegedly took place.

What PSU has to be careful of is not to write a job description that has standards that are higher than for neurosurgeons, rocket scientists or saints. Then, any successor will be doomed to fail. Atop that, the NCAA Rule Book is so nuanced that you have to ask yourself the question whether the "cleanest" coaches are the most honest ones or the best and dancing inside and outside the nuances of the rule book or at avoiding detection for relatively minor sins that might look worse were they to accumulate over time.

I once heard an adage that the three toughest jobs in the U.S. were President of the United States, Mayor of New York City and head football coach at Notre Dame. Perhaps now the PSU job is the fourth, what with all the expectations that will be placed on the job.

My view is that Penn State should look for a dignified, esteemed "caretaker" coach to restore faith in the overall athletic program and who then can hand things off to a coach in waiting or, alternatively, a lateral hire who will benefit from the healing period without having to lead the healing himself. In corporate parlance, the guy who leads the turnaround probably isn't the same guy who will lead your growth stage once the problems are resolved. Penn State's elders should think about that.

7:59 AM  

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