DALLAS - Penn State acting athletic director Dave Joyner addressed the media in the back of the famed Gilley's Bar about the university's search for a new head football coach Thursday night while a hypnotist entertained team members, coaches, families, friends and fans from the stage.
Perhaps the hypnotist should have reported to the back of the nightclub to try to get the tight-lipped Joyner to say anything about who is being considered.
Joyner did not mention any names, and wouldn't address any names brought up by reporters, "out of respect" for the ones who have interviewed.
Joyner, the chairman of the search committee, did acknowledge the panel has talked to some high quality candidates but needs to do "a little bit more" with interviews and that there are "a handful of people we think are worthy" to be the new coach.
As for a timetable, Joyner said that the committee would like to get finished "so that whoever the head coach is, be it coach [Tom] Bradley or be it somebody else, has enough time to go interact with recruits and do the best we can do with what's going on."
There is one small recruiting window available between Jan. 4 and 7, but Joyner sounded as if he were content with waiting for the final contact period (Jan. 13-28) before the signing of national letters of intent on Feb. 1.
"I think it's more important when we get to the last" period, he said. "I'm not saying it won't happen before then. But I think the most important thing is to give them those last three weeks."
Joyner also refuted a report that he already had someone ready to introduce as the new head coach but is waiting until Monday's TicketCity Bowl game between the Nittany Lions and Houston has been completed.
"We haven't negotiated a contract with anybody," he said. "We haven't done anything specific in those regards right now at all."
Joyner added that he and university president Rodney Erickson have talked "in generalities" about what kind of financial offer to make to the candidate they would choose, but no further.
Since Joe Paterno was fired on Nov. 9 by the Penn State board of trustees (of which Joyner is a member) in the wake of the indictment of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky on child sexual abuse charges, the committee has been very deliberate in its consideration of a new coach.
Names of candidates have been floated throughout the search process. Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak, a former Penn State offensive lineman, denied Wednesday that he had interest in the job. Head coaches Dan Mullen of Mississippi State, Chris Peterson of Boise State and Kevin Sumlin of Houston and now of Texas A&M have been mentioned and faded from view.
The latest rumor, reported by Fox29 in Philadelphia, talked about former New York Jets head coach Eric Mangini having interest. Mangini could not be reached Thursday for comment.
Joyner joked that the number of candidates interviewed was more than one and less than 40 and that he didn't want to reveal what his favorite rumor was because then the media "would be able to eliminate a few things and then start figuring something out."
But as for the deliberate nature of the process, he said accuracy in choosing the right person is more important than speed.
"We're looking at people in a systematic way and looking for some very important qualities that this program has been known for, for many, many years," he said. "I'm not saying that there aren't other programs out there that are high quality. But we have a very special place. It has been for a long time, and we want to continue being a special place."