Despite weeks of speculation that Harvard football coach Tim Murphy is a target for the vacancy left by Joe Paterno’s departure as head coach at Pennsylvania State University, Murphy denied that Penn State officials have contacted him. However, he said that he has already received and turned down two offers from other programs since the end of the season.
Murphy would not reveal which schools or conferences had offered him head coaching positions but said that both were in the Football Bowl Subdivision, the largest and most lucrative division in college football.
“Both schools that I was contacted by, I told them that I was very happy here and very politely told them that I was not interested,” Murphy said from Charlotte, N.C., as he returned from a trip geared toward recruiting athletes for Harvard’s team.
Paterno, until a few weeks ago one of the most respected coaches in football, was fired last month for failing to adequately handle alleged child molestation by one of his assistant coaches, Jerry Sandusky. Paterno had been a coach for the Nittany Lions since 1950 and the team’s head coach since 1966.
Though there are a number of likely candidates already for Paterno’s post—in addition to Murphy, Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen and University of Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin have been rumored as possible replacements—the search committee has not officially revealed its list of candidates.
Jeff Nelson, an assistant athletic director at Penn State, declined to comment on possible early targets in the search but said that acting Athletic Director Dave Joyner hopes to announce a new head coach in the next few weeks.
On Nov. 15, Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com first reported that Murphy was interested in the coaching vacancy. But Murphy told The Crimson the next day that no one had ever contacted him about the position.
Nevertheless, speculation that Murphy is a potential candidate has grown in the past two weeks. Various Pennsylvania papers and Matt Hayes of Sporting News have all reported that he is a target for the job despite Murphy’s continued claims that he has not spoken to anyone from Penn State.
Murphy said that he declined his two other offers only minutes after the end of each conversation. He received both within a week of the end of Harvard’s season.
Murphy led Harvard to a historic season in 2011. The Crimson finished with a 9-1 record, including an undefeated 7-0 mark in Ivy League play. The team won its 14th league title and set Harvard’s modern-era record for points scored in a season.
He also passed Joe Restic, his predecessor, on the all-time wins list in Harvard coaching history and now sits at 120. This year marked Murphy’s sixth Ivy League Championship.
Since taking over as Harvard’s head coach in 1994, Murphy has turned down a number of high-profile coaching positions, especially after some of his most successful seasons.
After a 9-0 season in 2001, Murphy was reportedly on the short list for the job at Navy. In 2004, the team finished 10-0, and Murphy was offered the top position for the Indiana Hoosiers.
But neither of those jobs would have been nearly as prestigious—or, given the circumstances of his would-be predecessor’s departure, as difficult—as the position at Penn State.
Murphy does have prior experience coaching in the FBS, having served as the head coach at Cincinnati between 1989 and 1993. During his tenure, the team went 17-37-1. But in his last season at the helm, he led the Bearcats to an 8-3 record, their best since 1976.