While it's not completely impossible that Greg Schiano won't be the head coach at Rutgers in 2012, the very concept is fairly improbable and unrealistic, especially when conjoined to speculation about the future of the Penn State program. That is even taking into the news that Penn State head coach Joe Paterno is finally leaving his perch in Happy Valley. Odds are that this almost certainly will not happen, as there are two nigh-insurmountable stumbling blocks in the way. Let's all take a collective deep breath for a moment, and stop jumping to outlandish conclusions.
1. Who's to say that Penn State is actually interested in hiring Greg Schiano?
Given the circumstances of Joe Paterno's six decades of overwhelming dominance, isn't there a strong possibility that the administration will want a clean break by hiring a complete outsider? Granted, that's not exactly easy when shopping for a head coach, with four Paterno disciples (Schiano, Al Golden, Frank Spaziani, and Paul Pasqualoni) roaming the college ranks, and the likes of Jim Caldwell, John McNulty, and John Hufnagel sprinkled throughout the pros. Penn State football's considerable largesse has to this point been used for branching out into obscure non-revenue sports, with Paterno content to draw a pittance salary, while donating large sums back to the school. If they want a big name, they can pay. That is of course assuming that Penn State's new administration embraces athletics in light of the worst scandal in the history of college sports, and shows more decisiveness than the current regime, which was long-considered staid and mismanaged far before the current crisis broke.
If for some reason they want to stay within the Paterno family, who's to say that Schiano would be at the top of the list? After Jerry Sandusky retired, defensive coordinator Tom Bradley assumed the heir apparent mantle, with other assistants like Larry Johnson remaining viable contenders. What about Golden, who unlike Schiano, actually is a Penn State alumnus? Jerry Sandusky or no, you'd think he would bolt Miami in a heartbeat to be free of what is likely to be years of NCAA-imposed sanctions. Golden signed up at Miami under false pretenses, and in contrast to Schiano, does not have strong ties to his current job. This is essentially the instinct test. If Penn State offers Al Golden their coaching job, he accepts instantly, without a moment's hesitation. Greg Schiano would at least have to think things over for a bit. After all, he turned down Michigan and Miami, while Golden hightailed it out of Temple at the first opportunity.
Looming larger is Schiano's status within the college football landscape. Given their resumes, the merits of Golden and Schiano are practically identical, as both share similar temperaments, strengths, and weaknesses. Warranted or not (likely, the latter), Golden's star remains hotter due to media hype, impatience, and a lack of historical perspective (holding 2010 against Schiano, even though Miami has some bad losses this year.) In reality, the pair couldn't be more alike, which likely owes a lot to Paterno's enduring influence over them. Both are solid, respectable coaches, with clearly defined strengths and weaknesses. They're not nearly as bad as their worst critics like to argue at times. Nor has either consistently met the highs over their career. These are two coaches who fall within one standard deviation of the mean in a normal distribution.
2. Who's to say that Greg Schiano wants to leave?
Yes, Rutgers is in a bit of a pickle while waiting for conference expansion to unravel, and requires the added television revenues of a new agreement and/or conference to compete on a level playing field with other programs over the long run. However, both Schiano and athletic director Tim Pernetti have expressed confidence that Rutgers will land on its feet. Both are credible enough at this point to be taken on their word, and the sentiment is realistic. The Rutgers athletic programs have plenty to offer in terms of fundamentals, and while they are not in a position to dictate terms as the main actors in conference expansion are, the end result of most scenarios is that Rutgers athletics will persevere. It may be as a tagalong, or as a result of mysterious external circumstances, but anyone arguing otherwise at this point is jumping to even more unwarranted conclusions than those who are already fitting Schiano for Nittany Blue.
Schiano can be taken at his word, and all he's said, consistently, is that he wants to be at Rutgers. This isn't Ann Arbor and Miami Beach we're talking here, and turning down Michigan and Miami were pretty strong statements (in terms of real estate and program prestige), with both decisions proven correct in retrospect. Rutgers may be tortured like Sisyphus, but those programs turned into tire fires over the past decade. The grass distinctively was not greener, and who's to say it will be with Penn State football now forever synonymous with the worst, most insidious kind of impropriety and misconduct imaginable? Where's the upside in stepping into that hornet's nest? Replacing Paterno was already a thankless task almost certainly doomed to failure before the events of the past week. If things get so desperate that Bradley and Golden say no, why would Schiano presumably then jump at the opportunity?
Why squander his legacy to rebuild another man's tarnished reputation? Never mind that, who in their right mind would possibly want to uproot a decade's worth of family roots in Central New Jersey for a considerable quality of life downgrade in the vast wasteland of Central Pennsylvania? The idea is preposterous, driven by an unending sea of rumors, speculation, and frankly, negative recruiting. Greg Schiano's tenure has far outpaced a legion of skeptics and critics certain of his eventual downfall. If he really does like at Joe Paterno as a mentor, which Schiano does frequently express to the media, presumably he learned the most important lesson of Paterno's career: which was that consequences be damned, he defied every naysayer and critic to the bitter end. He built Penn State football brick by brick, and if Greg Schiano is half the man that Paterno once claimed to be, if he's one tenth as stubborn, there's absolutely no way that Schiano's ego would accept anything less in forging his own program.