Speculation begins on searchto replace Joe Paterno

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Penn State needs a coach. Urban Meyer is available.

Let the speculation begin.

The last game Meyer coached for Florida, his Gators beat Joe Paterno and Penn State in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1.

Meyer, then 46, needed a break from coaching. Paterno, having just turned 84, was seemingly going strong.

“He will go down as the greatest football coach in the history of the game. Every young coach, in my opinion, can take a lesson from him,” Meyer said after that game in Tampa, Fla.

“If I ever start a coaching school, I’m going to make everybody do a book report on Joe Paterno, and say that’s the way you should act in coaching because that’s college football. … You just don’t want to lose that man or lose what college football is. That was college football out there today.”

Now it’s possible Meyer could be the man to replace Paterno, the winningest coach in Division I history, whose 46-season run with the Nittany Lions is ending because of a child sex-abuse scandal involving a former assistant coach.

Paterno announced Wednesday that he will retire at the end of the season, though the board of trustees could cut that short. The athletic director at Penn State has stepped aside, too, so no one even knows who will be hiring the next coach.

And Meyer’s name certainly won’t be the only one to surface as a possible candidate at Penn State.

This, however, is certain: Penn State is going to hire a football coach for the first time since 1966 and one of the most successful in the past decade is on the market.

Even before former Nittany Lions defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was charged with being a serial molester - speeding up Paterno’s departure - there had been talk that Penn State officials had reached out to Meyer about eventually replacing their coaching legend.

Meyer, now 47, has given no indication that ‘s heready to return to coaching - anywhere. The Ohio State job could also come open at the end of the season, and Meyer is an Ohio native. Some Buckeyes fans already have started counting the days until Meyer takes over in Columbus.

But Meyer has made no commitments. And before the Penn State scandal erupted, he was happy just being a college sports fan: Meyer has three children and his two daughters play college volleyball.

“I’m not worrying about down the road,” Meyer told the Associated Press in a phone interview last week. “I do miss it. I miss a lot of things about it, but I also am really enjoying another part, that’s I get to watch my kids play sports.”

Some other top candidates have a Penn State connection.

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