STATE COLLEGE - Tom Bradley would love to have the "interim" removed from the head-coaching title of the dream job he has been paying dues toward for 33 years. But, just in case he didn't knock the socks off the six-member search committee that interviewed him Friday, he wasn't above some minor and good-natured bribery.

Hey, whatever it takes.

"Dr. [Rodney] Erickson [Penn State's new president] was down today, congratulating our team on their No. 1 academic ranking for all bowl teams," a very loose and jocular Bradley said yesterday at Penn State's Bowl Media Day in Holuba Hall. "I tried to schmooze him a little bit. I gave him a No. 1 jersey, and maybe that will help my cause.

"I also gave Dave [David Joyner, the Nittany Lions' acting athletic director] a No. 70 jersey [the number Joyner wore when he played at Penn State from 1969 through '71], so I was trying to do the best I can do."

Whether Bradley's best is good enough remains to be seen. It has been speculated that the university's Board of Trustees might nudge the selection committee into choosing a permanent successor to Joe Paterno who has no previous ties to Penn State and, thus, none to the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal that has led to the school being portrayed as Exhibit A for all that is wrong with intercollegiate athletics.

Paterno was fired Nov. 9 in the wake of the scandal involving Sandusky, a former defensive coordinator.

Joyner, who heads the search committee, has unequivocally said it is not mandatory that the new coach come from outside the Penn State "family." But if there is a mandate to start fresh, it would not bode well for Bradley, 55, a former Lions defensive back who became a graduate assistant coach on Paterno's staff after his final game in 1978 and never left. Other than Paterno, perhaps no individual is as closely identified with this football program as the man affectionately known as "Scrap."

Asked how he has gone about recruiting high school players for a university that might soon give him his walking papers, Bradley made a joke that reminded laughing reporters of just why they like him so much.

"Well, I told them that we have the greatest media in the world that covers us," Bradley said.

"No, I talked about the great attributes of this university from the academics to the facilities, Big Ten schedule, stadium and fans. This place is not going to change. We have a lot of great things going for us that have nothing to do with the head coach.

"And we've been honest and open with them. We've been transparent about everything. I think they're waiting to see what happens with the head coach. We've told a lot of these guys that they have to go visit other places and keep their options open until they see what happens here. We've been completely honest about that."

Bradley was just as honest when he noted that not all Penn State players wanted to accept the invitation to play in the second-year TicketCity Bowl, which some construed as a slap to the face of a 9-3 team that tied Wisconsin for first place in the Big Ten's Leaders Division.

"I had mixed emotions," defensive tackle Jordan Hill said. "We've been to better bowls. I was mad at the time. But you don't want to go out with a loss like that [the 45-7 drubbing by Wisconsin in the regular-season finale]. We're playing a good team. It's my competitive nature to want to play another football game and win."

Paterno update

Joe Paterno was released from the hospital and has shown improvement after being treated for lung cancer, a source confirmed to the Daily News.

A source close to the family told the Associated Press that a tumor showed substantial reduction after radiation and chemotherapy. Paterno was released Sunday.

Paterno, who turns 85 tomorrow, was hospitalized last week after breaking his pelvis in a fall at home.

Daily News wire services contributed to this report.