New Penn State coach: Time to ‘restore the confidence’
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — New Penn State coach Tom Bradley says he is replacing Joe Paterno with ‘‘very mixed emotions.’’
The defensive coordinator is Penn State’s first coach other than Paterno in almost half a century. He was appointed interim head coach by Penn State’s board after the trustees fired Paterno on Wednesday night in the wake of a child sex-abuse scandal involving former assistant Jerry Sandusky.
‘‘We’re obviously in a very unprecedented situation,’’ a somber Bradley said Thursday morning. ‘‘I have to find a way to restore the confidence ... it’s with very mixed emotions and heavy hearts that we go through this.’’
Bradley will coach the 12th-ranked Nittany Lions through the end of the season, starting with Saturday’s home finale against No. 19 Nebraska. In the days since Sandusky, Paterno’s onetime heir apparent, was charged with sexually assaulting eight boys over a 15-year period, the scandal has claimed Penn State’s storied coach, its president, its athletic director and a vice president.
‘‘This team has put in a lot of hard work,’’ Bradley said. ‘‘Penn State will go about it in the proper manner and restore ... the principles of Penn State University.’’
Bradley’s Penn State roots go back more than three decades. He went from special teams captain to graduate assistant in 1979, and has been in Happy Valley ever since. He took over as defensive coordinator after Sandusky resigned in 1999, and the Nittany Lions are third in the country in scoring defense (12.4 points per game) this year. They rank eighth in total defense (282.3 yards per game).
Nicknamed ‘‘Scrap’’ for his scrappy style on special teams while a player, the energetic Bradley is known for his animated machinations on the field, wildly flailing his arms to move his defenders or call in plays. He was Paterno’s lead assistant on the field for the last 11 seasons, and considered the leading in-house candidate to replace his Hall of Fame boss.
‘‘I am who I am, I’m not going to change,’’ Bradley said. ‘‘I’m not going to pretend I’m somebody else.’’
Bradley grew up in Johnstown, a western Pennsylvania mining town, as the second oldest of seven kids (three boys and four girls). His father, Jim, played basketball for Pittsburgh but, like many Irish Catholics, the Bradleys’ football allegiances were to Notre Dame. That e Penn State connection started with his older brother, Jim, who played defensive back for Paterno from 1973-74.
Tom played defensive back from ‘77-78, and his younger brother, Matt, was a linebacker from ‘79-81.
Bradley found out he was the new coach Wednesday night while watching game film. He called Paterno about 11 p.m.
Asked to describe the conversation, Bradley replied, ‘‘I think that’s personal in nature.’’