There was an interesting rumor a friend of mine had told me a few weeks ago: former Florida head coach Urban Meyer had a sitdown with Penn State President Graham Spanier and Athletic Director Tim Curley about the future of the Nittany Lion football program and a possible coaching vacancy following this season.
Very intriguing, I thought to myself. Naturally, tons of scenarios immediately ran through my head, but then were squashed by the realization the Joe Paterno will never willingly give up his throne. Paterno will have to be dragged from the sideline (or the press box) kicking and screaming.
It took another week or two before published reports of the meeting between Meyer and the Penn State brass got out. But once word spread, it sent a buzz throughout the press box during Saturday's snoozefest with Iowa that there might be a light at the end of the tunnel. And how fitting was it that Meyer just happened to be on ABC's broadcast team in Happy Valley last weekend.
As expected, Meyer dismissed the rumors as just that - rumors.
"When rumors are out there - last week, a guy hit me with something, 'Did you meet with so and so?' Of course not," he said at the Outback Bowl kickoff luncheon on Wednesday. "I don't know how those things get printed, just, 'Source says.' Who's your source? A guy walking down the street? Those things bother me, but it comes with the job, I guess."
But what do you expect the man to say. You don't develop a reputation as one of the more respected coaches in college football by throwing current coaches under the bus. Meyer said what someone in his position should, no more, no less.
I mentioned in a column at the beginning of the season that I felt Al Golden would be perfect to take over the program following this season. But things have settled down along South Beach, the Hurricanes have won a few games, and I think Golden will stay in Miami beyond this season.
Next on the list: Meyer. He's another coach that Paterno thinks very highly of and would continue to run a respectable football program on and off the field.
But here's the icing on the cake, the factor that would make Meyer a better choice than any other coach, including sticking with Paterno - the man can recruit and develop the players needed to win in college football today.
Switch to college basketball for a second. The Kentucky Wildcats, a basketball program with a golden past but had struggled for a number of years, brought in then-Memphis Tigers coach John Calipari. Following the coach came some of the highest-rated recruits in the country, and trips to the Elite Eight and Final Four in his first two seasons with the Wildcats.
That's how college athletics works in the 21st century. The best athletes want to play for the best coaches, to win a national championship and get a sure path to the professional level.
Well, guess what Penn State fans? None of that describes the Nittany Lion football program. Look at the former Lions in the NFL. You have some offensive and defensive linemen, a couple of linebackers and a quarterback who has more gray hair than Paterno. No playmakers, speedsters and dynamic athletes that opponents need to game plan against. Even the best running backs that have come out of Happy Valley recently have struggled and failed to make it on the professional level. That's not a knock on the current coaching staff, it's just a dose of reality that the biggest playmakers don't want to come to Penn State.
More reality - Paterno is not one of the best coaches in college football, and he hasn't been for some time now. No one can deny that he is a coaching legend, but that doesn't resonate with recruits these days. Players today know Les Miles, Nick Saban and Meyer, as the top college coaches. Paterno's time passed long ago.
Bringing in Meyer would have the same impact for Penn State that Calipari had at Kentucky. The big name coach brings the big name recruits, leading to big wins and the resurgence of the Penn State football program.
Devon Still earned a number of honors this week, and rightfully so. He was selected to ESPN.com's Mid-season All-America Team. Still was also selected runner-up for ESPN.com's Big Ten Mid-season Defensive Player of the Year and is on the Chuck Bednarik Award watch list.
Quote of the week: "I've probably got stones in my head, had them there for years. No, I don't know, I think that's all that's newspaper talk and media and fans, but I feel too good for me to be thinking about that. Outside of the leg hurting, I feel great." - Joe Paterno, on whether his recent injuries might bring an end to his coaching career.
Chris McFarland is the news editor of The Sentinel. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org