Despite the intense amount of interest surrounding the formation of Penn State’s ice hockey program, a lid has been tightly sealed over any and all information regarding the head coaching search for what is considered to be the hottest job in college hockey. While plenty of names have been thrown around only a few coaches have officially confirmed their conversations with the Penn State administration. Most notably Wisconsin women’s coach Mark Johnson of the Miracle on Ice lore, a coach who not only has the name recognition to draw the recruits but the hockey IQ to turn a good idea into a winning program.
Surprisingly Joe Battista (Director of Hockey Operations, and general God) has been open about Penn State’s spending when it comes to the coaching search and it isn’t what you might have suspected.
“A lot of these coaches don’t understand, while we are going to be very competitive, we’re not going to go out and break the market to get someone,” Battista said. “We’re just not simply going to pay outrageous sums of money for coaches.”
So that’s a bit of a buzzkill. Penn State picks up an 88 million dollar gift and won’t pay a coach enough money to get a good one to show up? Well, first off it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Penn State is counting their coins. Outside of a legitimate economic struggle, Penn State has always paid their coaches less than their cohorts across the country. Some of this comes from Penn State’s belief to put athletics in it’s place while most of it comes from Penn State’s love to take giant baths in tubs of it’s own money.
Secondly Battista also didn’t say he wouldn’t pay the going rate. Considering how many people have applied for the job to coach in Hockey Valley what a coach might not get in straight cash he’ll get in having Terry Pegula helping him out as well as state of the art facilities to work with. Whoever gets the job won’t have to work hard to get things going. That being said, Penn State still has to put up the money to make the effort worth it.
In an interesting turn of events some news about who Battista is looking at to fill the big job came out of College Hockey News.
Scott Sandelin, who led the Bulldogs to their first-ever championship nine days ago, has been contacted about the head coaching vacancy at Penn State, according to UMD beat writer Kevin Pates’ blog. Sandelin has one year left on his contract at Minnesota-Duluth. As previously reported by College Hockey News, Penn State plans to interview approximately five finalists, beginning as early as this week. Penn State has been tight-lipped on who those finalists would be.
For those of you asking. Yes, random schools you’ve never heard of are really good at hockey. That’s not even meant to be a joke, outside of some Big Ten schools Penn State fans will need to get used to hearing names of small schools and worrying about losing to them. And early on, more often than not Penn State will lose.
So what does that mean? If Sandelin (who makes roughly $150,000 a year) keeps his interest level high it could mean there is money somewhere that has not yet been made public. Much like the Cael Sanderson hire for wrestling, boosters and fundraisers got together and found a coach they wanted, all Tim Curley had to do was say yes to a hire he didn’t have to pay for.
If hockey boosters, a somewhat surprisingly rich bunch of people, decided that they’ll chip in to get a guy they want hired, then coaches like Mark Johnson and Sandelincome back on to the table. While none of them were ever officially out of the question, between Battista’s comments and Penn State’s spending history, it seemed likely that the higher paid coaches in college hockey weren’t the targets of the coaching search. The key for Penn State will be finding a coach who wants the job, not a coach who just wants in with Terry Pegula, possibly the hottest owner of the week in the NHL.
Undoubtedly there are forces at work and decisions being made about the foundation of the program that will never make it to the papers, even so, who Penn State talks to, and who makes it into their final five could shed some light onto a coaching search that could change the landscape of a sport.
While we’ll continue to cover the coaching search and Penn State hockey as a whole, be sure to check out Thank You Terry, a blog dedicated to Penn State hockey.