Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley's name has been going round and round in the coaching rumor mill for over a month now in connection with jobs at Pittsburgh and Temple, but now in the new year, things are really beginning to heat up. In the wake of the firing of Michael Haywood at Pitt and the departure of Randy Edsall from Connecticut, both programs are on the market for a coach, and Bradley's name is popular for both.
There are also assistants at big-time programs who could attract attention from UConn, including Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster and Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley. Foster, 51, has been with Virginia Tech since 1987 while Bradley, 54, has long been viewed as Joe Paterno's heir apparent and has recently been cited as a candidate for the Pittsburgh job.
Tom Dienhart is also tying Bradley to Connecticut.
If Bradley were to leave, it's likely most Penn State fans would rather him head to New England than Pittsburgh for obvious reasons. Though he could still be a pain in Penn State's back side in western Pennsylvania recruiting given his connections there, it's likely he wouldn't be going head to head with the Nittany Lions for as many recruits in the WPIAL as he would if he were at Pitt.
Speaking of Pitt, there appears to be a lot of smoke surrounding Bradley's name there in the wake of Michael Haywood's firing than last month when the Panthers were in the process of replacing Dave Wannstedt. Chancellor Mark Nordenberg has taken a more active role in the search and, after athletic director Steve Pederson chose to focus on candidates with head coaching experience the first time around, has expanded the field to include prominent assistants, including Bradley.
The Pittsbugh Post-Gazette's Paul Zeise talked to Pederson about the possibility of hiring Bradley this time around, and he sure sounds interested.
To that end and because I know this name is always the subject of much discussion in these searches at Pitt -- Pederson told me Tom Bradley would be a "very strong and very attractive candidate" for Pitt and someone he would strongly consider despite the fact that he is a "Penn State guy." He said Bradley has a lot of good qualities and that it wasn't his "Penn State ties" that eliminated him from consideration but rather the fact that he has no head coaching experience. Pederson said he really wanted to focus on head coaches but if the school was going to look at assistant coaches, Bradley would certainly get a long hard look.
Even Joe Paterno has chimed in on the situation and openly endorsed Bradley's candidacy for the Pitt job.
"I think Tommy should be a very, very strong candidate. Tommy has done a good job. He is a good recruiter, a good coach, he's organized. And I think he certainly deserves some consideration."
Predictably, the reaction is coming in fast and furious to the news. On the Pitt side, Anson Whaley of SB Nation Pittsburgh thinks Bradley is the obvious choice despite his Penn State ties.
Unlike Haywood, Bradley has a long history of success. He's served as a top assistant/coordinator at a big-time program for not just years, but decades. And not only has he served in that role, he has done it successfully. Penn State regularly churns out some of the best defensive players year after year.
Bradley would also be a strong recruiter. He has brought top-level players to Penn State for many years and not only has a history of that, but he's done it in this area. He's familiar with the high school coaches in Pennsylvania, so there would be no learning curve with him. Further, in losing recruiter and secondary coach Jeff Hafley to Rutgers this year, Pitt lost a coach who had strong ties to the New Jersey/DC/Eastern Pennsylvania area. Hiring Bradley would help reestablish Pitt's communications with recruits in that area.
Even if Bradley doesn't get the head coaching gig at Pitt, though, his name could still get some play there. The Washington (Pa.) Observer-Reporter is getting into the act with this little tidbit.
© My Marvin Lewis-to-Pitt tip on this blog well over a month ago is starting to get some legs again.
A bigger surprise is this. Word has it that Tom Bradley is so fed up with things in State College that he would leave Penn State to come to Pittsburgh as Lewis' defensive coordinator.
Lewis, of course, is the Cincinnati Bengals outgoing head coach, and has a lot of Pittsburgh ties himself. If Bradley believes he isn't getting the Penn State job when Joe Paterno leaves the program, taking an assistant's post at Pitt under Lewis might be a tempting offer.
Regardless of where he goes and in what role, though, Chirs over at Slow States thinks its bad news for Joe Paterno.
And if Tom Bradley gets the Pitt (or another) job and takes a handful of assistants with him — as is expected by people close to the program — that could, and should, bring the Joe Paterno era to an end. No decent assistant coach is going to move to State College, Pennsylvania for a temp job.
Paterno had the nerve to say he plans to "work hard on recruiting" over the next few weeks. He hasn’t done that in years. Well, he’s said it, he just hasn’t done it. Time to end the charade in Happy Valley.
Penn State athletic director Tim Curley has already said he expects Joe Paterno to return in 2011, however. A push to remove Paterno at Penn State would appear unlikely at best, regardless of what happens with Tom Bradley. A Bradley defection would unquestionably be a blow to the Nittany Lion coaching staff, though, as Bradley is perhaps Penn State's most effective recruiter. It could be and even bigger blow if he takes another coach with him, namely linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden, who was rumored to be on his list of potential assistants if he had landed the Temple coaching job last month. In that event, Penn State would be left with only a couple of coaches who do any measurable recruiting. Paterno might have to take on more recruiting responsibilities, and that might not be something he's willing to do.