TAMPA, Fla. -- A month’s worth of speculation had finally died down this past week. Not only was Joe Paterno going to be staying, but it looked as though he would be keeping his coaching staff intact as well.
Paterno will be back for the 2011 season, but the future of defensive coordinator Tom Bradley was clouded again this weekend when the head coaching job at Pitt abruptly became available again.
Bradley said Saturday after Penn State’s 37-24 loss to Florida in the Outback Bowl that he had yet to be contacted by Pitt about this latest vacancy.
On Sunday, however, Paterno gave his long-time aide a ringing endorsement for the job.
“If they ask me, I’ll tell them I think Tommy is a fine coach,” Paterno said Sunday at his annual season postmortem meeting with reporters. “He has good, strong city of Pittsburgh contacts. He’s got a brother (Jim) who is an orthopedic surgeon, head surgeon for the Steelers, and the whole bit.
“I think Tommy should be a very, very strong candidate. Tommy has done a good job. He’s a good recruiter, a good coach, he’s organized. And I think he certainly deserves some consideration.”
Pitt had largely ignored Bradley, a Johnstown native who has recruited Pittsburgh and western Pennsylvania for the Nittany Lions for years, when the school was looking for a new coach in early December.
The Panthers had Dave Wannstedt announce his resignation on Dec. 6 following a disappointing 7-5 season that began with hopes of a Big East title and an automatic berth in a BCS bowl.
Instead, Pitt was beset by injuries and also a string of arrests that had higher-ups concerned with the image of the program.
Ten days later, the Panthers announced the hiring of Michael Haywood, the head coach at Miami (Ohio) and a former offensive coordinator under Charlie Weis at Notre Dame. Bradley reportedly did not receive serious consideration for the job and was not interviewed.
Haywood was introduced at a press conference as a coach who would restore “discipline” and “moral character” to the program.
On Friday afternoon he was arrested and charged with felony domestic abuse in Indiana. Pitt fired him on Saturday evening.
With Pitt’s program suddenly in disarray, all options are again open.
Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Bradley would be a "very strong and very attractive candidate," adding that the Panthers bypassed him earlier this month because the program was mainly interested in head coaches or assistants with head coaching experience.
Still, Pederson’s opinion may not be worth as much at the moment after his hand-picked new coach was dismissed in a statement from the university’s chancellor.
Bradley had been contacted by the administration at Temple in December to interview for the Owls head job after former coach Al Golden, a former Penn State player and coach, left to go to Miami (Fla.)
Temple ultimately decided to hire Florida offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, choosing him over Bradley and Penn State linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden, among others.
Bradley, 54, has spent the last 37 seasons at Penn State, playing from 1975-78 before joining the coaching staff as a graduate assistant in 1979. He was named defensive coordinator in 2000.
This past week, Bradley said he was “flattered” to have been considered for a head coaching job but said he would be more than happy to remain at Penn State.
“If I don’t get to be a head coach, it’s not going to define me,” Bradley said.