Former Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley is returning to coaching in 2014, at West Virginia. Photo: Getty Images
It was only a matter of time before Tom Bradley got back on a college football sideline. The man who seems to have been built and programmed to be a college football coach will do just that in 2014, three years after stepping away form the coaching game under bizarre and unfortunate circumstances.
West Virginia officially named the Bradley the new Senior Associate Head Football Coach on Friday. It is expected he will focus his coaching responsibilities with the linebackers, as Tony Gibson is already serving the role of defensive coordinator. Bradley's addition to the West Virginia staff carries many positives. The longtime Penn State defensive coordinator has strong recruiting ties in western Pennsylvania, a key recruiting ground for the Mountaineers, and his track record suggests he will help improve the West Virginia defense.
“Tom brings numerous years of successful college coaching experience and versatility,” West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “He is an excellent defensive teacher, has high energy and intensity and gives us a proven recruiter with regional and national ties."
Bradley is also a loyal coach, who should have some staying power in Morgantown.
Bradley was an assistant under Joe Paterno at Penn State for 33 years. He was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2000 after Jerry Sandusky retired and it was common belief Bradley would be named the head coach at Penn State if and when Paterno retired. As it turns out, that is exactly what happened, but nobody could have predicted just how that would all unfold.
In November 2011 Bradley was named the interim head coach of Penn State after Paterno had been forced out under a cloud of controversy stemming from the horrendous Sandusky scandal. Bradley was a team player, taking on one of the most unenviable tasks any coach could be asked to do. The circumstances of the situation were some o the most difficult any coach could tackle, and there was likely no right way to handle it. But Bradley handled it with as much class and dignity as anyone could. Considering how difficult it must have been to take over for Paterno, Bradley managed to let the players handle their business. The 2011 season at Penn State ended about as well as things off the field did. Penn State lost two of their final three games of the year, with a home loss to Nebraska and a blowout loss at Wisconsin to take Penn State out of the Big Ten championship game picture. Penn State then accepted a bowl bid to take on Houston in the TicketCity Bowl, where Case Keenum and the Houston offense constructed by Kevin Sumlin (Sumlin had already left for Texas A&M) blew away an uninspired Nittany Lions team largely going through the motions.
|Bradley's first game back in coaching will be against Nick Saban and Alabama. Photo: USA Today Sports|
Even though Penn State's 2011 season ended the way it did, few have made the case that Bradley was at fault. At the end of the season Penn State was in a position to make some sweeping changes with the program. It was an unpopular decision for many but it was the only choice the university could have made at the time. Bradley would have been a fine head coaching candidate if the job was open in 2010, but 2012 meant finding a new face and a new approach. That led to Penn State thinking outside the box and hiring New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien. O'Brien only kept two assistants on the staff, and Bradley was not among them.
Bradley trailed off in to relative obscurity, perhaps in need of a break from the coaching game after the 2011 season. It was not because he as not qualified, his profile clearly demonstrates that. This is a coach who was believed to be a likely successor at Penn State, who could have (should have?) been the head coach at Pittsburgh once, if not twice. Like many Penn State assistants from Paterno's staff, finding work proved to be difficult. Was it guilt by association or just a public relations decision to stay away from anyone with those tight Penn State ties? Whatever the case, Bradley still had a presence in western Pennsylvania, where he would later do some work with the Pittsburgh Steelers broadcasts. In 2013 Bradley joined the CBS Sports Network for TV work breaking down Army football games. He was not bad, but coaching is his calling, and West Virginia is about as good a fit as he could have come his way in 2014.
"I am truly excited to join the West Virginia football program,” Bradley said. “It has always been my primary goal as a coach and educator to help the student athletes succeed on the football field, but more importantly as students and future graduates. I look forward to meeting the team, coaches, support staff, faculty, administration and West Virginia alumni. West Virginia has a great history and tradition, and I am honored to be a part of its future."
West Virginia needed all the help they could get to improve the defense. They found a great addition in Bradley, and it will be good to see him back on a sideline in the fall.