Penn State's unique and drawn-out coaching search is the type that makes you hesitant to believe a hire has been made until he's being introduced at the podium in State College.
But after an unsuccessful push to woo Boise State's Chris Petersen, Penn State has shifted its focus and finally could be closing in on its man.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Penn State's search committee has targeted Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak for the school's vacancy. Munchak played offensive line for the Nittany Lions from 1978-81 before embarking on a Hall of Fame career in the NFL. The 51-year-old is in his first season as Titans coach after 14 years as the team's offensive line coach.
Another NFL coach, Green Bay Packers assistant Tom Clements, also is near the top of Penn State's list, according to multiple reports.
Munchak told reporters Monday that "nothing is going on" with Penn State, but a lot of coaches make similar statements while their teams are still playing. The Titans on Sunday face Houston needing a win and some help to secure a wild-card spot in the AFC playoffs.
Several of Munchak's former Penn State teammates spoke to statecollege.com and indicated Munchak is on the verge of taking the Lions job. One ex-teammate told the website, "I root for Tennessee to win every week. Not this week."
If the Titans lose Sunday or fail to make the playoffs, the Munchak-Penn State talks could heat up in a hurry. Penn State interim head coach Tom Bradley told reporters Tuesday that a permanent head coach won't be named until after the team's appearance Monday in the TicketCity Bowl against Houston. Bradley is one of several current assistants, including defensive line coach Larry Johnson and linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden, who have interviewed for the job.
Naming a coach might simply be a matter of timing, as The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News' David Jones reports.
Whatever decision is made, it appears the 6-person committee's work is finished. Committee member Russ Rose, the PSU women's volleyball coach, left Monday with his wife on a 2-week vacation throughout Italy. You would think that wouldn't be happening if any hay remained outside the barn.
Munchak is an intriguing candidate, to say the least. Many wonder question why he would consider making a move from the Titans, his employer for the past 29 years, especially after becoming the team's head coach and having a decent first season. He has no experience coaching at the college level and has been an NFL guy through and through.
Still, Penn State fans should be excited if the school lands the former Nittany Lions star. Luring an NFL head coach under tough circumstances would be a coup of sorts for Penn State. And while Munchak has Penn State roots and played for former coach Joe Paterno and former assistant Jerry Sandusky, he's removed enough from the key figures in the sex-abuse scandal. He's close but not too close, which could be the perfect result for Penn State. His NFL background also would appeal to recruits trying to reach the next level.
The search for Paterno's successor appears to be hitting the home stretch.
Stay tuned to the blog for the latest developments.