Is Tom Bradley Leaving Penn State for Pitt?

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The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting that Tom Bradley is likely the new head coach of the University of Pittsburgh’s football team. Bradley would apparently accept the job quickly, as it is a position he has wanted for quite some time. Bradley has yet to meet with Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg.

After so many years with the team spent as lieutenant to a legendary coach whose contract expires next year, why would Bradley make the decision that now was the time to leave Happy Valley? Bradley sought the head coach position at Temple in December and is now reported to be interviewing with U Conn.

The reports come after a night of rumors that culminated in the retraction of a Patriot News story by David Jones. It stated that Bradley had been offered the job already. Jones issued the report based on texts with a source whose information proved erroneous.

Bradley has been involved with Penn State’s football program since he began playing for Joe Paterno in 1975. When ESPN profiled him in 2007, he explained why he was happy being defensive coordinator for the Nittany Lions:

People ask me, ‘Why didn’t you go? Why didn’t you do this? Why didn’t you do that?’ If I could find something better, I’d know it. But I haven’t found something better. It’s a great atmosphere to work. Joe lets us coach and he treats us fairly and treats us like men.

He also admitted that he would be interested in the head coach position at Penn State.

If you walk down the street and ask 100 guys if they’d like to be the head coach at Penn State, 99 of them are going to tell you yes. It’s a great university and a great place. I think anybody would answer that question, ‘Sure, I’d like to be the head coach at Penn State.

His departure is definitely a loss for the University, but the length of his stay is impressive. Black Shoe Diaries described the impact Bradley’s departure could have on Penn State football:

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 an 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.

The prospects for Penn State football in 2011 aren’t great at this point. A defecting QB, a departing assistant coach, and a mediocre recruiting class could leave the program weak heading into the spring. Watch these next few months carefully. I have the feeling that behind closed doors, discussions are taking place that will shape many seasons to come. Could it really be true that Tim Curley and Joe Paterno haven’t discussed the future of Penn State football? Even assuming Joe Paterno comes back to coach next season as he says he will, Bradley’s departure will leave a gaping hole in the football program. If Bradley leaves, who will fill his spot?

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