After being broken early yesterday afternoon and then hushed up in seemingly-record time, multiple outlets are reporting that LB coach Ron Vanderlinden and QB coach Charlie Fisher are no longer with the Penn State football program. The rumors started being confirmed on message boards yesterday evening.
There has been no official word from Penn State as of yet, and the coaches both still are listed on the team's website as on staff. The changes were reportedly made as early as Sundday, with Fisher still tweeting pro-PSU tweets from his twitter account that same day.
As there's been no official word, every reason on every message board has been based solely on speculation. The most intriguing reason offered behind Coach Fisher's departure is that Bill O'Brien will be giving up offensive coordinator duties to take over coaching the quarterback position, and will hire someone new (George Godsey, perhaps?) to serve as the offensive coordinator. Back when O'Brien was assembling his staff, rumors abounded that Fisher was by no means his first choice as QB coach, though by most accounts he's done an admirable job with that position (though it can be debated how much of McGloin's and Hackenberg's improvement was Fisher, and how much was O'Brien's himself).
More of the debate will, of course, center around Vanderlinden's departure. One of the two holdouts from Coach Paterno's staff, Vandy was the head coach of Maryland before taking over linebackers at Penn State in 2001. There's no debate that he's been incredibly successful in developing this position since he came to Happy Valley, but there have to be legitimate reasons for the split--O'Brien just wouldn't let him go (or Vandy wouldn't just walk) if there weren't. We likely will never know what these reasons are--do they not see eye to eye? Does O'Brien want to switch to a 3-4 defense, like Stanford, Wisconsin and Alabama? Is Vanderlinden finally realizing that he's overqualified to be a position coach?
But, regardless, this stings as he's obviously a good coach. One thing to realize, though, as Gary Andersen's post game quotes this week indicated--O'Brien is much respected in football, and not just by players--by coaches too. He will fill these vacancies, with incredibly strong (and possibly up and coming) candidates, coaches that want to coach for him, who buy in to what he's doing at Penn State, and want to be in State College. We were Linebacker U thirty years before Ron Vanderlinden came to PSU, and we will continue to be Linebacker U for years to come.
When the official word comes down from the athletic department, the full story will likely never be known. It will probably come out as a mutual decision; whether that's true or not will probably be up for debate, and will no doubt be debated right here in the comments. Remember, though--there's always a reason for things like this. We just don't know what it is, and likely never will. We're just not used to coaching turnover, because we were insulated against it for so long--and that's both a good and bad thing.
When O'Brien announced his staff, Larry Johnson Senior was always the key man for me. That still rings true. Whether that continues in years to come may be up for debate--but, today, after the Wisconsin game, that's still true for me.
Fire away, guys. You know you want to.
UPDATED: The official release from Penn State:
Penn State Football coach Bill O’Brien announced today that quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher and linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden have resigned to pursue other opportunities.
"I appreciate all of Ron and Charlie’s hard work and thank them for their dedication and service to Penn State," said O’Brien. "I wish them well in all their future endeavors."
Vanderlinden was the Nittany Lions’ linebackers coach since 2001. Fisher was the quarterbacks coach the past two seasons.
"I’ve greatly enjoyed my 13 years at Penn State and all the student-athletes I had an opportunity to work with," Vanderlinden said. "I wish Coach O’Brien and Penn State nothing but the best in the future."
"I want to thank Penn State and Coach O’Brien for the opportunity to be a part of the program the past two seasons," said Fisher. "It was a great experience and I am very proud of what we accomplished. Now I'm looking forward to the next chapter and making a positive impact on the next group of players I have the privilege of working with."
O’Brien stated he will begin an immediate search to fill the two positions and will not comment on the status of the search until the positions have been filled.