STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Arms crossed in front of his chest with the brim of a blue Penn State hat sitting low across his forehead, Tom Bradley kept his focus intently on his players at practice while shuttling quickly across the field.
The Nittany Lions’ interim head coach sure looked like someone determined to keep the job on a permanent basis.
Bradley said Monday he interviewed on Friday with the Penn State committee searching for a replacement for ousted Hall of Famer Joe Paterno, though he doesn’t know when the school might come to a decision.
Flashing his trademark dry wit, Bradley even quipped he tried to get a good word in with university president Rodney Erickson when Erickson congratulated players earlier Monday for academic achievements.
“I tried to schmooze him a little bit, I tried to give him a No. 1 jersey,” Bradley told reporters at No. 24 Penn State’s media day for the TicketCity Bowl on Jan. 2 in Dallas against No. 20 Houston. “Maybe that would help my cause.”
It was a light moment for a team and coaching staff that has otherwise endured an unimaginable amount of scrutiny since retired assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was charged Nov. 5 with the first set of child sex-abuse charges that dated back to 1994.
School trustees fired Paterno after a record 46 seasons as head coach amid mounting pressure that university leaders should have done more to prevent alleged abuse.
“We’ve had a bigger magnifying glass on us for the last two or three months than any team that’s ever played ... in the history of college football,” safety Drew Astorino said. “We better be used to it by now. If we’re not used to it than something’s wrong with us.”
There was another unforeseen twist this past weekend: starting quarterback Matt McGloin suffered a seizure and concussion Saturday after an argument with receiver Curtis Drake about a missed route in practice carried over into a locker room scuffle. McGloin called it a “freak accident” when he got knocked out after hitting a concrete floor.
The jawing itself was the type of argument that occurs countless times on practice fields across the country, players and coaches said.
But few such arguments end with police and an ambulance being called to the locker room to treat the starting quarterback.
“I saw his initial reaction when he had the seizure. It was scary,” said tailback Silas Redd, who was one of the players who called for a doctor.
McGloin showed up Monday’s practice in street clothes after calmly answering reporters’ questions for at least 15-20 minutes. He said he has passed the mental portion of a concussion test, but isn’t where he should be physically in terms of balance and vision. Bradley called McGloin “day to day,” and that doctors would need to clear McGloin to return to practice.
“As the quarterback for this university, I feel like I’m held to a higher standard,” McGloin said. “I’m man enough to take responsibility for it. It was my fault. With everything that’s going on with this university right now, we don’t need another distraction.”
The team got some good news later Monday about its former head coach. Paterno was released from the hospital Sunday, a week after breaking his pelvis again following a fall at home, a person close to his family told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the family’s desire for privacy.
Paterno has also been diagnosed with what his family called a treatable form of lung cancer, and the person told the AP on Monday he was in good spirits and showing improvement. Paterno was hospitalized to make it easier for him to receive cancer treatments while his pelvis healed.
“He’s a strong person, a fighter, a leader,” fullback Michael Zordich said. “He’s been going through a lot right now ... We’re giving him space, and we’ll go see him when can. Hopefully we can get there soon.”
Bradley hasn’t spoken to Paterno in over a month, after his former boss told him to keep his attention on running the team. Erickson has said he would prefer to have a new coach in place by the bowl game.
Circumstances aside, December is already a delicate time to go through a coaching search, in large part because less than two months remain until high school senior recruits can formally announce their intentions to attend college. Bradley said he has been open and transparent with recruits, and encouraged them to “keep your options open” until the Penn State job is settled.
As for coaches, Bradley says it’s all about Houston.
“They’re doing a great job,” he said about the staff. “And we’ll continue to do a great job until the day they tell us we’re no longer wanted — if that’s the case.”