STATE COLLEGE — The life of a major college head coaching candidate — at the same time Brent Pry was being mentioned as a favorite to take over the Louisiana-Lafayette program, he was touring around the state recruiting for Penn State.
That was before lunch on Thursday. By Friday morning, the Nittany Lions’ defensive coordinator was in front of the cameras at Fiesta Bowl media day shortly after reports hit that another assistant was in line for the job.
“I’m staying at Penn State,” Pry said. “I’m looking forward to the bowl game. Excited to be off the road and getting back to practice.”
With Pry sticking around, the Lions avoided the unenviable task of replacing all three of its coordinators in the same offseason, especially with college football’s new early signing period approaching on Wednesday.
Pry said there was “mutual interest early in the process” between himself and Louisiana-Lafayette, where he got his first big coaching break, serving as defensive coordinator there from 2002-06. He also has family in the area, an added draw on top of running his own program.
But money may have played a role. When Sports Illustrated reported Thursday that Pry was a favorite for the job, it was with the caveat that the Ragin’ Cajuns may not have been able to offer a salary competitive with that of a Big Ten coordinator, especially after having to buy out former coach Mark Hudspeth, who was fired earlier this month.
“This is a fantastic place,” Pry said. “I love working for (Lions coach James Franklin), my family loves being here, we love the family environment that coach provides for us. And this time of year you can’t read too much into what’s out there on social media.
“It’s that time of year, and it’s never accurate. It’s twisted one way or the other, but we’re happy to be in Happy Valley and looking forward to coaching against Washington.”
Regardless, it’s a boost for the Lions, who already had to deal with the departures of offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead and special teams coordinator Charles Huff who took over at Mississippi State.
“I take that as a tremendous compliment,” said Franklin, who promoted Ricky Rahne and Phil Galiano to replace Moorhead and Huff, respectively. “Whenever you have really good people who are talented at what they do, people are going to pursue them. In some ways, they’ll try to steal some of our success.”
Pry and Franklin have known each other for years, with Pry’s father, Jim, serving as offensive coordinator for the East Stroudsburg team that Franklin quarterbacked. Brent Pry got his first coaching job there around the same time, coaching linebackers.
Now he’s overseen the linebackers for Franklin for all seven years Franklin has been a head coach, following him from Vanderbilt to Penn State — the last two as defensive coordinator as well.
As it is, the two are very close and discussed Pry’s opportunity at length, as they did in early 2014 when Pry was linked to the Georgia Southern head coaching job.
“I kind of feel split,” Franklin said. “I want what’s best for Brent Pry and his family, but I also want what best for Penn State and Penn State football. I’m conflicted on that, personally and professionally.”
Bowen remains suspended
Franklin confirmed that junior linebacker Manny Bowen will not play in the Fiesta Bowl, the fourth straight game he will miss as well as the second straight bowl game.
Bowen will have sat out all five games, including last season’s Rose Bowl, for undisclosed violations of team rules.
Asked to elaborate about Bowen’s future with the program beyond this season, Franklin offered only, “Manny Bowen will not be available for the bowl game.”
Senior Brandon Smith will again be in line to start in Bowen’s weak-side spot, where he has been effective in three straight lopsided wins.
But with Smith and middle linebacker Jason Cabinda entering the final games of their college careers, the Lions are looking thin at the position for 2018 regardless of what happens with Bowen.