The guys after the guy

Posted by Jeff Rice jrice@centredaily.com on December 20, 2011 

One thing to keep in mind as Penn State's coaching search drags on is that, despite the Sandusky scandal hanging over the campus, the job is still (or should be) very attractive. It's a major-conference team with great tradition, facilities, a ravenous fan base and — at least for the time being — a solid base of returning talent.

But one thing that isn't getting talked about much is that the next coach will be replacing a legend. That can be motivating or daunting, and it can yield mixed results. Don't think for a second that stepping into Joe Paterno's considerable shadow isn't in the mind of every potential candidate. Here's a look at five men who replaced college football coaching legends — none of whom won as many games as Paterno — and how they fared.

Earle Bruce, Ohio State — Woody Hayes' successor went 11-1 and lost in the Rose Bowl in his first season after replacing Hayes. The Buckeyes finished fourth in the national polls that year and never reached that summit again in nine seasons under Bruce. He finished with 81 wins, 26 losses, a tie, was 5-3 in bowl games and won four Big Ten titles. He went on to have unsuccessful stints at Northern Iowa and Colorado State.

Gary Moeller, Michigan — Moeller had amassed only six wins in three seasons at Illinois in his previous head coaching stint but barely missed a beat after taking over for Bo Schembechler in 1990. The Wolverines went 44-13-3, with three Big Ten crowns and three Top-10 finishes, and never finished worse than 8-4 in five seasons under Moeller, whose tenure ended quickly after videotapes of his drunken outburst in a Detroit restaurant surfaced in 1995.

Jimbo Fisher, Florida State — Bobby Bowden's coach-in-waiting — many had wanted Paterno to set up a similar transition plan — took over a program that had gone just 38-27 in Bowden's final five seasons. Fisher led the Seminoles to a 10-4 record and an ACC division title last season and an 8-4 mark this year.

Frank Solich, Nebraska — Tom Osborne had lost a total of three games during his last five seasons in Lincoln and had won three national championships during that span. The Cornhuskers lost four games in Solich's first season, 1998, but went 12-1 and won the Big 12 title the next season. Solich went 58-19 and 2-3 in bowl games in six seasons at Nebraska. He has been the head coach at Ohio University since 2005.

Ray Perkins, Alabama — The former Crimson Tide wide receiver won 32 games and three bowls in four seasons after succeeding Paul "Bear" Bryant in 1983. That wasn't bad, but "not bad" was not nearly good enough for fans who had watched Bryant win SEC titles in nine of his final 12 seasons and six national championships. The Tide went 5-6 in 1984, their first losing season in nearly 30 years. Perkins left after the 1986 season to take the head coaching job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL.

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