It seems like the programs of Michigan and Penn State are going in completely different directions today. We had a good laugh watching the Wolverines get shot down time and again over the last few weeks since Lloyd Carr announced his retirement. But this weekend after Michigan snagged Rich Rodriguez from West Virginia the laughing coming from Happy Valley got a lot quieter. Time will tell if the hiring of Rodriguez was a good move, but right now there is no denying he was one of the top three or four names in the country.
Earlier this year Carr had his contract restructured to allow him to be paid for administrative duties after this season. But the key was having all of his assistants' contracts restructured into two year deals. The result? His staff remained in tact for his final season knowing that if he retired and the next coach did not require their services they would have a year to find a new gig. There was no mass exodus of recruits. The program remained stable thus remaining attractive to good football coaches.
Now let's jump over Lake Erie to see what life is like on the other side of the channel. We have an 81 year old coach whose contract runs out after the 2008 season. No successor has been made public. No two year contract has been guaranteed to the assistants. The result? Brian Norwood is already gone. Tom Bradley is talking to West Virginia. Other assistant coaches like Larry Johnson and Ron Vanderlinden are rumored to be looking for other opportunities. Dick Anderson and Galen Hall are a bad cold away from calling it a career and retiring. It's no wonder Joe Paterno said his biggest challenge this off season will be keeping his staff together. The only staff member we can be certain isn't entertaining possible career moves is Jay Paterno. There is no guarantee the administration will hire from within the program when Paterno finally decides to step down. And there is no guarantee any of these guys will have jobs when the new coach takes over. The longer the administration goes without giving Joe a new contract the more it appears he will not be back in 2009.
It's time for the administration to end the guessing game. Either give Joe a contract extension or announce that 2008 will be his final season. If Tom Bradley has already been declared the next head coach, why is it being kept a secret? If the administration is going to interview candidates from outside of the program, why not make arrangements to make it financially rewarding for the staff to stay loyal for a few more years?
The current state of affairs is creating an atmosphere of confusion. The assistant coaches are uncertain about their future. Recruits are wary about committing to a coaching staff that may not be there in two years. The time to lay out a long term vision for the program is upon us. We must not delay.
Meanwhile on the other side of the lake it's a new dawn in Ann Arbor. Change is in the air. The Wolverines are full of hope and promise while we sit. And wait. Wondering what will become of our Dear Old State.