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After years of no one leaving, there’s now revolving door at PSU for assistant coaches

Photo by Penn State Athletics: Charles Huff

My second year on the Penn State beat was 2007, and safeties coach Brian Norwood left the program for a much more lucrative job — to become defensive coordinator at Baylor.

I remember all the veteran reporters on the beat saying at the time just how rare it was to see an assistant coach leave.

Joe Paterno wasn’t happy. He never wanted assistants to leave, and very few ever did.

Even though Norwood was getting a better job, the story goes that Paterno didn’t like it and was cold to him for leaving. Despite the fact that Norwood’s son, Jordan, was still a standout receiver for the Nittany Lions.

Paterno replaced Norwood with Kermit Buggs. That was the last time Paterno had to replace a departing assistant coach.

Paterno coached four more seasons, until 2011, and not a single assistant left in that time.

It is incredible now, looking back on it, how things operated at Penn State back then with regards to assistant coaches.

We are in a completely different world now, a world where PSU loses assistants just about every year.

This offseason alone, the Lions have seen three assistants depart: offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca was fired in favor of Mike Yurcich; tight ends coach Tyler Bowen went to the Jacksonville Jaguars for the same position; and Monday we learned safeties coach Tim Banks is leaving to become defensive coordinator at Tennessee.

James Franklin just finished his seventh season at Penn State. In that time, he has seen 15 assistant coaches leave, most on their own, with a few getting fired. The only two assistants remaining from his initial staff in 2014 are defensive coordinator Brent Pry and cornerbacks coach Terry Smith.

Fifteen assistants leaving is a staggering number compared to the way things used to be at PSU. But in the same breadth, it’s pretty much par for the course in college football these days.

Teams all across the country see assistant coaches depart every year for different jobs. It’s just the way it is.

College coaches are generally nomads, moving on from place to place every 2-3 years when a better job comes along.

And that’s the key here with regards to Penn State — better jobs.

Yes, 15 is a big number of coaches for Franklin to have to replace. But as you’ll see in the list below, a good number of the assistants have gone on to better jobs — some either as head coaches or coordinators.

Money also is a big factor in all of this. The money available to college assistants now is far greater than it was during Paterno’s tenure, making it more beneficial for coaches to look elsewhere. For example, Banks will make $1.3 million in year one, then $1.4 million in year two and $1.5 million in year three as Tennessee’s defensive coordinator. While we don’t know his PSU salary for sure, there’s a good chance he’ll be doubling his pay at least with the Vols.

Franklin has said repeatedly he understands why coaches will leave for other jobs and that he’s happy for them, as long as it’s for a better job and not a lateral move.

Some of the departures early on in his PSU tenure — Bob Shoop to Tennessee and Herb Hand to Auburn, for instance — were lateral moves. Those moves also came before Penn State’s resurgence in 2016, which changed so many things and made it possible for assistants to stay on longer to wait for a better job.

This is the entire list of assistant coaches who have left Penn State during the Franklin era. And once again, when you consider how little turnover there was during the Paterno era, just seeing the size of this list still has to be jarring to longtime PSU fans.

**John Donovan, offensive coordinator (2014-15): Fired after two seasons. Now offensive coordinator for Washington Huskies

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**Bob Shoop, defensive coordinator (2014-15): Left for defensive coordinator job at Tennessee. Now defensive analyst for Miami Hurricanes

*Herb Hand, offensive line coach (2014-15): Left to become O-line coach at Auburn. Now O-line coach for Charlotte

**Charles Huff, running backs, special teams coordinator (2014-17): Left for offensive coordinator job under Joe Moorhead at Mississippi State. Now head coach at Marshall

**Josh Gattis, wide receivers coach (2014-17): Left to become receivers coach at Alabama. Now offensive coordinator at Michigan

**Joe Moorhead, offensive coordinator (2016-17): Left to become head coach at Mississippi State. Now Oregon offensive coordinator

**David Corley, wide receivers coach (2018): Fired after one season. Now receivers coach at South Carolina State

**Phil Galiano, special teams coordinator (2018): Left to become assistant special teams coach for New Orleans Saints, where he remains

**Ricky Rahne, QB coach, tight ends coach, then offensive coordinator (2014-19): Left to become head coach at Old Dominion

**Sean Spencer, defensive line coach (2014-19): Left to become D-line coach of New York Giants, where he remains

**Matt Limegrover, offensive line coach (2016-19): Fired after 2019 season. Now O-line coach at Arkansas State

**Gerad Parker, wide receivers coach (2019): Left to become offensive coordinator at West Virginia, where he remains

**Kirk Ciarrocca, offensive coordinator (2020): Fired after one season. Has not landed another job yet

**Tyler Bowen, tight ends coach, co-offensive coordinator (2018-20): Left to become tight ends coach with Jacksonville Jaguars this month

**Tim Banks, safeties coach, co-defensive coordinator (2016-20): Left to become defensive coordinator at Tennessee today

(NOTE: For anyone wondering, three assistant coaches left during Bill O’Brien’s two-year tenure as head coach from 2012-13. Ted Roof was defensive coordinator in 2012 but departed for the same post at Georgia Tech. After the 2013 season, longtime LBs coach Ron Vanderlinden and QB coach Charlie Fisher resigned, although they really were forced out. O’Brien didn’t see eye to eye with Vanderlinden, who had done tremendous work at PSU and coached several superstar LBs during the Paterno era. Fisher was with PSU for two years, and O’Brien wanted to go in a different direction. O’Brien, however, left for the NFL’s Houston Texans a month after those two assistant coaching decisions.)

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Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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