Welcome to COACHWATCH, the weekly review of the coaching carousel.
With Texas hiring Charlie Strong and Louisville quickly going back to the future with Bobby Petrino, Penn State stands as the only BCS-conference program still looking for a head coach.
In a coaching carousel plagued by the typical rumors and shaky reports, the PSU search has been particularly complicated. In the week since Bill O'Brien jumped ship for Houston, there have been four reported frontrunners for the job and three coaches reported to be deep in negotiations.
First, it was former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano, who was set to get the job before O'Brien had even left town.
The Schiano boomlet quickly fizzled right around the time he was fired by the Bucs. By January 2, Schiano was out. The search then turned to Miami's Al Golden, a Penn State alum who turned around nearby Temple before going to South Florida. Golden was so certain to get the job that at least one source said he'd been hired.
Blue-White Illustrated's @Tim_OwenBWI reporting Miami's Al Golden will be named Penn State head coach.— Matt Maisel (@Matt_Maisel) January 3, 2014
Tim Owen of Blue-White Illustrated reports Al Golden has accepted PSU job. Only report so far.— Mike Zappone (@mzapkd) January 3, 2014
Blue & White illustrated says Golden took the job. if true, this offseason will see new coaches at PSU, the U, Texas, USC & maybe oklahoma— Jeremey Smith (@j_smitty67) January 3, 2014
That, of course, was premature. Just a few minutes later, BWI modified the tweet to say that Golden had been offered the job.
http://t.co/zJZNxB7WuL and Phil Grosz of BWI are reporting that Al Golden has been OFFERED to become Penn State's 16th head coach— Tim Owen (@Tim_OwenBWI) January 3, 2014
Apologies for any confusion I caused. Did not mean to report/announce any news. I wrote what I thought would happen without proper context— Tim Owen (@Tim_OwenBWI) January 3, 2014
Two days later, Golden announced he was remaining at Miami and would not take the Penn State job.
By the weekend, the speculation moved to recently fired Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak and Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin, both of whom reportedly interviewed with Penn State administrators over the weekend. By Tuesday, Franklin was the third frontrunner for the job.
By Wednesday night, Penn State fans had resorted to that greatest of coaching search pastimes: Watching random private jets.
Franklin, obviously knowing that his name had been connected with a flight to University Park, took to Twitter with one of those proof-of-life tweets that only need a picture of Franklin holding a copy of The Tennessean to confirm the date.
Just got done my most important job, putting our girls 2 bed & making sure they know how much their dad loves them! Family first!— James Franklin (@jamesfranklinvu) January 9, 2014
Intrepid bloggers camped out at the State College airport, looking for a sign of Franklin. He didn't step off the plane, but athletic director Dave Joyner and university president Rodney Erickson did.
Joyner sighting. No Franklin, though. pic.twitter.com/Pg7X4npxoN— Tim (@happyhourvalley) January 9, 2014
Donnie Collins of the Scranton Times-Tribune reported late Wednesday that Penn State offered Franklin the job, but that a decision has not been made.
I'm reporting that PSU has offered HC position to James Franklin. He's expected to decide Thursday. http://t.co/XC8BjqImQO— Donnie Collins (@psubst) January 9, 2014
As of Wednesday night, the speculation remains centered on Franklin. In the event that Franklin turns down Penn State, Munchak and San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman remain in play.
But for fans already feeling scorned by a coach who left after two seasons and a former player who preferred Miami, Franklin represents the chance to salvage something from another coaching search that would otherwise focus on NFL coaches. His decision is crucial to the program's psyche.
The Hilltoppers had to know this was coming. After losing their head coach to South Florida last year, they hired serial job hopper Petrino, and it took Petrino just 13 months to jump to a bigger job.
Western Kentucky reportedly interviewed offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm Tuesday, before Petrino had even left, because Petrino was always going to leave. Brohm, who previously spent six seasons as an assistant coach and offensive coordinator at Louisville under Petrino and Steve Kragthorpe, is the only coach widely linked to the job so far, and looks like a solid favorite to land it.
Penn State has been a more public mess, but has there been a more discombobulated firing and search than the one at UMass?
Athletic director John McCutcheon waited almost a month after the team's season ended before pulling the plug on Charley Molnar. Since then, he has spent two weeks being turned down by every coach with a pulse. On Wednesday night, the Manchester Union Leader reported that New Hampshire head coach Sean McDonnell has turned down an opportunity to interview for the job.
The reported leader at the moment: Former Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterbacks coach Mark Whipple, who previously spent six seasons coaching UMass in then-Division I-AA.