Penn State football: Coaches Butler, Fitzgerald, Hixon, London, Midget leaving, expected to join Bill O’Brien in Houston

tjohnson@centredaily.comJanuary 6, 2014 

— Penn State confirmed Monday that five former assistant coaches have resigned from the Nittany Lion football staff.

Defensive coordinator John Butler, strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald, wide receivers coach Stan Hixon, running backs coach Charles London and safeties coach Anthony Midget will not return. They are expected to fill vacancies on Bill O’Brien’s new Houston Texans staff.

Also leaving Penn State are Jim Bernhardt, special assistant to the head coach, and strength and conditioning coaches Dwight Galt IV and Sean Hayes.

Penn State spokesman Jeff Nelson announced the resignations.

Offensive line coach Mac McWhorter and tight ends coach John Strollo remain on Penn State’s current coaching staff with Larry Johnson as interim head coach.

Linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden and quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher resigned before O’Brien’s departure. Meanwhle, Director of Player Personnel Bill Kavanaugh left Penn State on Dec. 20 to take the head coaching job at Bentley University.

Just days after arriving in Houston, O’Brien gutted former Texans head coach Gary Kubiak’s old staff, including the team’s strength and conditioning crew.

Fitzgerald, who was widely popular with Penn State players when he was hired to take over for John Thomas, did not return calls or messages seeking comment.

Fitzgerald was the inspiration for the popular “Iron Lion” T-shirts and merchandise. He was also a key cog to keeping the 2012 team together when sanctions were leveled against Penn State, acting as a go-between with O’Brien and the players during a period in which NCAA rules prohibit head coaches from having contact with players.

Penn State players also grew fond of Fitzgerald’s energetic persona. The strength and conditioning guru made a habit of wearing nothing but shorts and T-shirts during his tenure at Penn State. His pregame pep-talks often featured grass drills, or Fitzgerald ripping his shirt off and flopping on the frozen turf, to get Penn State players energized.

Johnson said last week he expected most of the remaining Penn State staff to stay.

Penn State is continuing its search to find O’Brien’s replacement.

Miami Hurricanes coach Al Golden reaffirmed Monday that he would not be leaving that program for the time being. Golden played and coached at Penn State.

Meanwhile, Penn State has conducted interviews with Vanderbilt’s James Franklin and former Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak, also a former Penn State player.

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